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GRAPES OF WRATH
Cboyd cabled -
•VBTWBBN THE LINES." "ACTION FRONT,"
AND "DOING THEIR BIT"
E. P. DUTTON & CO.
(«1 FIFTH AVENUE
B. F. DUTTON AND COMPANY
tinted in the United States of America
ALL RANKS OF THE NEW ARMIES
Men of the Old Country^ Men of (he Over^
seas, and those good men among the
Neutrals who ptU aU else aside to join up
and help us to Victory ^ this book is dedi-
cated with pride and admiration by
In ihs Fidd,
iOth January, 1917
THE AUTHOR'S ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Acknowledgments are due to the Editors of The Com-
hiU Magazine, Land and Water, and Pearson* 8 Magazine
for i>ermis8ion to reprint such portions of this book as
have appeared in their pages.
BOYD CABLE— A PEEFATOET NOTE
The readers of Boyd Cable's '* Between the
Lines," "Action Front," and "Doing Their Bit,"
have very naturally had their curiosity exdted as
to an author who, previously unheard of, has sud-
denly become the foremost word-painter of active
fighting at the present day, and the greatest "lit-
erary discovery" of the War.
Boyd Cable is primarily a man of action ; and
for half of his not very long life he has been
doing things instead of writing them. At the age
of twenty he joined a corps of Scouts in ihe Boer
War, and saw plenty of fighting in South Africa.
After the close of that war, his life consisted
largely of traveling in Great Britain and the prin-
dlpal countries of Europe and the Mediterranean,
his choice always leading him from the beaten
track. He also spent some time in Australia and
BOYD CABLE— A PREFATORY NOTE
in New Zealand, not only in the cities, bnt in the
outposts of civilization, on the edge of the wilder-
ness, both there and in the Philippines, Java, and
other islands of the Pacific.
When he travels, Mr. Cable does not merely
take a steamer-berth or a railway-ticket and write
np his notes from an observation car or a saloon
deck. He looks ont after a job, and puts plenty
of energy into it while he is at it ; in fact, so many
different things has he done, that he says himself
that it is easier to mention the things he has not
done than the ones he has. He has been an ordi-
nary seaman, typewriter agent, a steamer-fireman,
office-manager, hobo, farmhand, gold prospector,
coach-driver, navvy, engine-driver, and many
other things. And strangely enough, though he
knows so much from practical experience, he has,
until recently, never thought of writing down
what he has seen.
Before this present War, he was on the staff
of a London advertising agency. At the outbreak
of hostilities, he offered his services and was ac-
cepted in 1914, being one of the first men not in
the regular army to get a commission and be sent
to the front.
It was his experience as ** Forward Officer'* (or
BOYD CABLE— A PREFATORY NOTE
observation officer in the artillery) that gave him
the material which he began to use in ** Between
In this dangerous and responsible position, his
daily life of literally ** hairbreadth*' escapes af-
forded him experiences as thrilling as any he has
described in his books. On one occasion, for in-
stance, when his position had been ** spotted*' by
enemy sharp-shooters, he got a bullet through his
cap, one through his shoulder-strap, one through
the inside of his sleeve dose to his heart, and flfty-
three others near enough for him to hear them
pass — ^all in less than an hour.
After eighteen months of this death-defying
wor^ without even a wound, Mr. Boyd Cable was
naturally disgusted at being invalided home on
account of stomach trouble ; but it was only this
enforced leisure that gave him really time to take
up writing seriously. As may be remembered, the
British Government selected him officially to make
the rounds of the munijtion factories and write an
account of what was being done in them, with the
purpose of circulating it among the men at the
fronts to let them see that the workers at home
were "doing their bit.'*
The following letter has just been received
BOYD CABLE— A PREFATORY NOTE
from Mr. Boyd Cable by the publishers, and they
venture to include it here, entirely without the
writer's consent (since that would be impossible
to get within the necessary time), and fully realiz-
ing that the letter was not written with a view to
publication. They feel that it will give the reader
an intimate view of the author, such as no amoimt
of description or explanation could do.
* ^ . . Many thanks for all the trouble you have
taken trying to place my stories in magazines. It
certainly is odd that British in U. S. A. are not
more interested in the war. I only hope the
States won't have one of its own to be interested
in, but honestly I expect it within very few years.
I am very glad you like **Grapes of Wratti''
and hope the further chapters (which Smith,
Elder & Company tell me they have sent you)
will equally please. I may not tell you where I
am or what I'm doing since the Censor forbids,
but may just say that since I came out again I've
seen plenty of the Somme **Push" and have been
able to make ** Grapes of Wrath" the more acoa-
rate and up to date in details.
Now we're all awaiting the Spring with full
antidpations of going in for the last round and
the knook-out to Germany. We're all very con-
fident she can't stand the pace we've set for next
We're having some bitter weather — ^fierce cold
and wet and snow, but we're putting up with it,
more or less cheered by the assurance that the
BOYD CABLE— A PEEFATOEY NOTE
Huns are feeling it every bit as bad as we are and
probably a bit worse.
With all regards and every good wish for the
coming year. . . .''
It only remains to add that the importance of
Mr. Boyd Cable's work may be judged by the fact
that of ** Between the Lines" considerably over a
hundred thousand copies have been printed in
Great Britain alone.
I. Towards the Push ....... 15
II. The Overture of the Guns .... 26
in. The Edge of Battle 37
IV. Across the Open 60
V. On Captured Ground 69
VI. Taking Punishment 79
VII. Blind Man's Buff . 98
VIII. Over the Top 112
IX. A Side Show 134
X. The Counter Attack 152
XI. Forward Observing 179
XII. A Village and a Helbiet 201
XIII. With the Tanks 229
XIV. The Battle Hymn 244
XV. Casualties 253
XVI. Play out the Game 275
BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampJmg out the vintage where the grapes of
uorath (ure stored,;
B.e hath loosed the fatal lightning of His terrible swift
His truth is marching on.
I have seen Him in the watch fires of a hundred circling
They have btUlded Him am, altar in the evening dews a/nd
I can redid His righteous sentence by the dim and flaring
His day is marching on.
I have read a fiery gospel, writ in bum^hed rows of
**As ye decA with My contemners, so with you My grace
Let the Hero, bom of wonum, crush the serpent u)ith His
Since Ood is m^arching on!
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never caU
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment
Oh! be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilamt, my
Our Ood is marching on.
BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC
In the beauty of the UUes Christ wca horn, across the
With a glory in His bosom that tra^nsfigures you amd
As He died to make msn holy, let us die to make man
While Ood is marching on.
He is coming like the glory of the morning on the UHwe;
He is wisdom to the mighty, He is succor to the brave;
So the world shaU be His footstool and the soul of tims
Our Ood is marching on.
JuuA Wabd Howe.
It is possible that this book may be taken for an
actual account of the Somme battle, but I warn
readers that although it is in the bulk based on
the fighting there and is no doubt colored by the
fact that the greater part of it was written in the
Somme area or between visits to it, I make no
daim for it as history or as an historical account.
My ambition was the much lesser one of describ-
ing as well as I could what a Big Push is like from
the point of view of an ordinary average infantry
private, of showing how much he sees and knows
and suffers in a great battle, of giving a
glimpse perhaps of the spirit that animates the
New Armies, the endurance that has made them
more than a match for the Germans, the accept-
ance of appalling and impossible horrors as the
work-a-day business and routine of battle, the
discipline and training that has fused such a mix-
ture of material into tempered fighting metal.
For the tale itself, I have tried to put into words
AUTHOR ^S FOREWORD
merely the sort of story that might and could be
told by thousands of our men to-day. I hope^ in
fact, I have so *Hold the tale^' that such men as
I have written of may be able to put this book in
your hands and say : ' * This chapter just describes
our crossing the open,'' or **That is how we were
shelled,'' or **I felt the same about my Blighty
It may be that before this book is complete in
print another, a greater, a longer and bloodier,
and a last battle may be begun, and I wish this
book may indicate the kind of men who will be
fighting it, the stout hearts they will bring to the
fight, the manner of faith and assurance they
will feel in Victory, complete and final to the gain-
ing of such Peace terms as we may demand.
In the Field
20th January, 1917.
GRAPES OF WRATH
TOWABDS THE PtJSH
The rank and file of the 5/6 Service Battalion of
the Stonewalls knew that ^* there was another
push on,'^ and that they were moving up some-
where into the push; but beyond that and the
usual crop of wild and loose-running rumors they
knew nothing. Some of the men had it on the
most exact and positive authority that they were
for the front line and ** first over the parapef ;
others on equally positive grounds knew that they
were to be in reserve and not in the attack at all ;
that they were to be in support and follow the
first line ; that there was to be nothing more than
an artillery demonstration and no infantry attack
at all ; that the French were taking over our line
for the attack; that we were taking over the
French line. The worst of it was that there were
so many tales nobody could believe any of them,
16 GRAPES OF WEATH
but, strangely enough, that did not lessen the eager
interest with which each in turn was heard and
discussed, or prevent each in tun; securing a num-
ber of supporters and believers.
But all the rumors appeared to be agreed that
up to now the push had not begun, so far as the
infantry were concerned, and also that, as Larry
Arundel put it, ^* judging by the row the guns are
making it's going to be some push when it does
The Stonewalls had been marching up towards
the front by easy stages for three days past, and
each day as they marched, and, in fact, each hour
of this last day, the uproar of artillery fire had
grown steadily greater and greater, until now the
air trembled to the violent concussions of the guns,
the shriek and rumble of the shells, and occasion-
ally to the more thrilling and heart-shaking shriek
of an enemy shell, and the crash of its burst in our
It was almost sunset when the Stonewalls
swung off the road and halted in and about a
little orchard. The lines of an encampment —
which was intended for no more than a night's
bivouac — ^were laid out, and the men unbuckled
their straps, laid off their packs, and sank thank-
TOWARDS THE PUSH 17
fully to easeful positions of rest on the long grass,
waiting until the traveling cookers, which on their
journey along the road had been preparing the
evening meal, were brought up and discharged of
their savory contents. But before the meal was
served there came an unpleasant interruption,
which boded ill for the safety of the night *s camp.
A heavy shell rushed overhead, dropped in the
field about four hundred yards beyond the camp,
burst with a crash and a gush of evil black smoke,
a flying torrent of splinters and up-flung earth.
While the men were still watching the slow dis-
persal of the shell smoke, and passing comments
upon how near to them was the line it had taken,
another and another shell whooped over them in
a prolonged line on the fields beyond. * * We seem^ ^ '
said Larry Arundel, **to have chosen a mighty
unhealthy position for to-night's rest.''
*^If the CO. has any sense,*' retorted his mate,
Billy Simson, **he'll up and off it somewheres out
to the flank. We're in the direct line of those
ommps, and if one drops short, it is going to knock
the stuflSn' out of a whole heap of us."
While they were talking an artillery subaltern
was seen crossing the road and hurrying towards
18 GRAPES OF WEATH
them. '* Where is your CO.?*' he asked, when he
came to the nearest group.
*'Over in the orchard, sir,** said Billy Simson.
*' 1*11 show you if you like.**
The officer accepted his pilotage, urging him to
hurry, and the two hastened to the orchard, and
to a broken-down building in the comer of it,
where the officers of the battalion were installing
a more or less open-air mess.
BiUy Simson lingered long enough to hear the
Subaltern introduce himself as from a battery in
a position across the road amongst some farm
buildings, and to say that his Major had sent him
over to warn the infantry that the field they were
occupying was in a direct line ** regularly strafed**
by a heavy German battery every few hours.
'*My Major said I was to tell you,** went on the
Subaltern, *Hhat there are one or two old bams
and outbuildings on the farm where we have the
battery, and that you might find some sort of shel-
ter for a good few of your men in them ; and that
we can find room to give you and some of the
officers a place to shake down for the night.**
Simson heard no more than this, but he soon had
evidence that the invitation had been accepted.
The battalion was warned to ** stand by** for a
TOWAEDS THE PUSH 19
move across the road, and the Colonel and Adjn-
tant) with the Sergeant-Major and a couple of
Sergeants, left the orchard and disappeared
among the farm bmldingSy in the company of the
Billy Simson repeated to his particular chums
the conversation he had overheard; and the re-
sulting high expectations of a move from the un-
healthy locality under the German guns' line of
fire, and of a roof over their heads for the night,
were ^presently fulfilled by an order for the bat-
talion to move company by company. "C" Com-
pany presently found itself installed in a commo-
dious bam, with ventilation plentifully provided
by a huge hole, obviously broken out by a shell
burst, in the one comer, and a roof with tiles lib-
erally smashed and perforated by shrapnel fire.
But on the whole the men were well content with
the change, partly perhaps because being come
of a long generation of house-dweUers they had
never become accustomed to the real pleasure of
sleeping in the open air, and partly because of
that curious and instinctive and wholly misplaced
confidence inspired by four walls and a roof as a
protection against shell fire.
Somewhere outside and very close to them a
20 GEAPES OF WRATH
field battery was in action, and for a whole hour
before darkness fell the air pulsed and the crazy
buildings about them shook to an unceasing thump
and bang from the firing guns, while the intervals
were filled with the slightly more distant but
equally constant thud and boom of other batteries ^
While they were waiting for the evening meal
to be served some of the men wandered out and
took up a position where they could view closely
the guns and gunners at their work. The guns
were planted at intervals along a high hedge ; the
muzzles poked through the leafy screen, and a
shelter of leaves and boughs was rigged over each,
so as to screen the battery from air observation.
Billy Simson and his three particular chums
were amongst the interested spectators. The four
men, who were drawn from classes that in pre-war
days would have made any idea of friendship or
even intercourse most unlikely, if not impossible,
had, after a fashion so common in our democratic
New Armies, become fast friends and intimates.
Larry Arundel, aged twenty, was a man of good
family, who in civilian days had ocQupied a seat in
his father's office in London, with the certain pros-
pect before him of a partnership in the firm. Billy
TOWAEDS THE PUSH 21
Simson was a year or two older, had been educated
in a provincial board school, and from the age of
fourteen had served successively as errand boy
and counter hand in a little suburban ^'empo-
rium/' The third man, Ben Sneath, age unknown,
but probably somewhere about twenty-one to
twenty-five, was frankly of the *4ower orders'' ;
had picked up a living from the time he was able
to walk, in the thousand and one ways that a Lon-
don street boy finds to his hand. On the roll of
*'C" Company he was Private Sneath, B, but to
the whole of the company — and, in fact, to the
whole of the battalion — ^he was known briefly, but
descriptively, as *'Pug." Jefferson Lee, the
fourth of the quartette, was an unusual and some-
what singular figure in a British battalion, be-
cause, always openly proud of his birthplace, he
was seldom called by anything but it — '^ Ken-
tucky,*' or **Kentuck." His speech, even in the
wild jumble of accents and dialects common
throughout a mixed battalion, was striking and
noticeable for its peculiar softness and slurring
intonations, its smooth gentleness, its quiet, drawl-
ing level. Being an American, bom of many gen-
erations of Americans, with no single tie or known
relation outside America, he was, in his stained
22 GRAPES OF WRATH
khaki and his place in the fighting ranks of a
British regiment, a personal violation of the neu-
trality of the United States. But the reasons that
had brought him from Kentucky to England, with
the clear and expressed purpose of enlisting for
the war, were very simply explained by him.
**Some of us,'' he said gently, *^ never really
agreed with the sinking of liners and the murder
of women and children. Some of us were a trifle
ashamed to be standing out of this squabble, and
when the President told the world that we were
*too proud to fight,' I just simply had to prove
that it was a statement which did not agree with
the traditions of an old Kentucky family. So I
came over and enlisted in your army."
The attitude of the four men now as they
watched the gunners at work was almost char-
acteristic of each. Larry, who had relatives or
friends in most branches of the Service, was able
to tell the others something of the methods of
modem artillery, and delivered almost a lecturette
.upon the subject. Billy Simson was frankly bored
by this side of the subject, but intensely interested
in the noise and the spectacular blinding flash that
appeared to leap forth in a twenty-foot wall of
flame on the discharge of each gun. Pug found
TOWAEDS THE PUSH 23
a subject for mirth and quick, bantering jests in )
the attitudes of the gunners and their movements
about the gun, and the stentorian shoutings v
through a megaphone of the Sergeaut-Major from
the entrance to a dug-out in the rear of the guns.
Lee sat down, leisurely rolled and lit a cigarette,
watched the proceedings with interest, and made
only a very occasional soft drawled reply to the
remarks of the others.
**Do you mean to- tell me,^' said Pug incredu-
lously, breaking in on ArundePs lecture, **that
them fellows is shootin' off all them shells with-
out ever seein' what they^re firin^ at! If that is
true, I calls it bloondn' waste. '^
**They do not see their target, '' said Arundel^}
*^but they are hitting it every time. You see they
aim at something else, and they're told how much
to the right or left of it to shoot, and the range /
they are to shoot at — it is a bit too complicated to
explain properly, but it gets the target all right. ' '
**Wot's the bloke with the tin trumpet whis- ,
perin' about f asked Pug. ** Looks to me as if
he was goin' to be a casualty with a broke blood-
vessel. ' '
** Passing orders and corrections of fire to the
guns,'' explained Arundel. '* There's a telephone
24 GEAPES OF WEATH
wire from that dug-out up to somewhere in front,
where somebody can see the shells falling, and
'phone back to tell them whether they are over or
short, right or left.''
*'It's pretty near as good as a Brock's benefit
night," said Billy Simson; *^but I'd want cotton
wool plugs in my ears, if I was takin' up lodgin's
in this street."
The light was beginning to fade by now, but the
guns continued to fire in swift rotation, from one
end of the battery to the other. They could hear
the. sharp orders, * * One, fire ; Two, fire ; Three,
fire, ' ' could see the gunner on his seat beside each
piece jerk back the lever. Instantly the gun flamed
a sheet of vivid fire, the piece recoiled violently
to the rear between the gunners seated to each
side of it, and as the breech moved smoothly back
to its position, the hand of one gunner swooped
rapidly in after it, grabbed the handle and
wrenched open the breech, flinging out the shin-
ing brass cartridge case, to fall with a clash and
jangle on to the trail of the gun and the other
empty cases lying round it. The instant the breech
was back in place, another man shot in a fresh
shell, the breech swung shut with a sharp, metallic
clang, the layer, with his eye pressed dose to his
TOWAEDS THE PUSH 25
sights juggled for a moment with his hands on
shiny brass wheels, lifted one hand to drop it
again on the lever, shouted ** Ready,'' and sat
waiting the order to fire. The motions and the
action at one gun were exactly and in detail the
motions of all. From end to end of the line the
flaming wall leaped in turn from each muzzle, the
piece jarred backwards, the empty brass case
jerked out and fell tinkling ; and before it ceased
to roll another shell was in place, the breech
clanged home, and the gun was ready again.
Billy Simson spoke to a gunner who was mov-
ing past them towards the billets.
^*What are you fellows shooting at?" he asked.
*'Wire cutting,'' said the gunner briefly.
** We've been at it now without stopping this past
four days, ' ' and he moved on and left them.
** Wire cutting," said Arundel, ** sweeping away
the barbed wire entanglements in front of the
Boche trench. That's clearing the track we're
going to take to-morrow or the next day."
**I hopes they makes a clean job of it," said
Pug; **and I hopes they sweep away some of
them blasted machine guns at the same time."
**Amen, to that," said Kentucky.
THE OVBBTXJBB OF THE GTTK8
All that night the meiiy packed close in their
hlanketSy slept as hest they could, but continually
were awakened by the roaring six-gun salvos firom
the battery beside them.
One of the gunners had explained that they
were likely to hear a good deal of shooting during
the night, *'the notion being to bust off six shells
every now and again with the guns laid on the
wire we were shooting at in daylight. If any
Boche crawls out to repair the wire in the dark, he
never knows the minute he's going to get it in the
neck from a string of shells. ''
**And how does it work!" asked the interested
*^ First rate,'' answered the gunner. ^'Them
that's up at the O.P.^ says that when they have
looked out each morning there hasn 't been a sign
or a symptom of new wire going up, and, of
THE OVERTURE OF THE GUNS 27
course, there 's less chance than ever of repairing
in daytime. A blue-bottle fly — ^let alone a Boche
— couldn't crawl out where we're wire-cuttiiig
without getting filled as fuU of holes as a second-
The salvos kept the barnful of men awake for
the first hour or two. The intervals of firing were
purposely irregular, and varied from anything be-
tween three to fifteen minutes. The^inf antry, with
a curious but common indifference to the future as
compared to the present, were inclined to grumble
at this noisy interruption of their slumbers, until
Arundel explained to some of them the full pur-
pose and meaning of the firing.
^*Seein' as that's 'ow it is," said Pug, '^I don't
mind 'ow noisy they are ; if their bite is anything
like as good as their bark, it 's all helpin ' to keep
a clear track on the road we've got to take pres-
'^ Those gunners," said Kentucky, ** talked
about this shooting match having kept on for four
days and nights continuous, but they didn't know,
or they wouldn 't say, if it was over yet, or likely
to be finished soon."
**The wust of this blinkin' show," said Billy
Simson, '*is that nobody seems to know nothin',
28 GRAPES OF WRATH
and the same people seem to care just about the
same amount about anythin \ ^ '
**Come off it,'* said Pug; *^ here's one that cares
a lump. The sooner we gets on to the straff and
gets our bit done and us out again the better
I'll be pleased. From what the Quarter-bloke
says, we're goin' to be kep' on the bully and
biscuit ration until we comes out of action ; so roll
on with comin' out of action, and a decent dinner
of fresh meat and potatoes and bread again."
^'There's a tidy few," said Billy, ''that won't
be lookin' for no beef or bread when they comes
out of action."
''Go on," said Pug; * that's it; let's be cheer-
ful. We'll all be killed in the first charge; and
the attack will be beat back ; and the Germans will
break our line and be at Calais next week, and
bombarding London the week after. Go on; see
if you can think up some more cheerf uls. ' '
**Pug is kind of right," said Kentucky; '*but
at the same time so is Billy. It's a fair bet that
some of us four will stop one. If that should be
my luck, I 'd like one of you, ' ' he glanced at Arun-
del as he spoke, **to write a line to my folks in
old Kentucky, just easing them down and saying
I went out quite easy and cheerful. ' '
THE OVEBTUEE OF THE GUNS 29
Pug snorted disdainfully. ** Seems to me,'' he
said, ^*the bloke that expec's it is fair askin' for
it. I'm not askin' nobody to write off no last
dyin' speeches for me, even if I 'ad anybody to
say 'em to, which 1 'aven't."
* * Anyhow, Kentucky, ' ' said Arundel, * ^ I '11 write
down your address, if you will take my people's.
What about you, Billy!"
Billy shuffled a little uneasily. *' There's a
girl, ' ' he said, * * one girl partikler, that might like
to 'ear, and there's maybe two or three others
that I'd like to tell about it. You'll know the sort
of thing to say. I '11 give you the names, and you
might tell 'em" — he hesitated a moment — ^**I
know, * the last word he spoke was Eose — or
Gladys, or Mary,' sendin' the Eose one to Eose,
and so on, of course."
Arundel grinned, and Pug guffawed openly.
**What a lark," he laughed, ''if Larry mixes 'em
up and tells Eose the last word you says was
'Gladys,' and tells Gladys that you faded away
murmurin' 'Gobd-by, Eose.' "
"I don't see anythin' to laugh at,' said Billy
huffily. "Eose is the partikler one, so you might
put in a bit extra in hers, but it will please the
others a whole heap. They don 't know each other.
30 GRAPES OP WEATH
so they will never know I sent the other messages,
and I'll bet that each of 'em will cart that letter
round to show it to all her pals, and they'll cry
their eyes out, and have a real enjoyable time
over it. ' '
Arundel laughed now. ** Queer notions your
girls have of enjoyment, Billy," he said.
**I know 'em," insisted Billy; **and I'm right
about it. I knew a girl once that was goin' to be
married to a chum o' mine, and he ups and dies,
and the girl 'ad to take the tru-sox back to the
emporium and swop it for moumin'; and the
amount of fussin' and cryin'-over that girl got
was somethin' amazin', and I bet she wouldn't
have missed it for half a dozen 'usbands ; and, be-
sides, she got another 'usband easy enough about
two months after." He concluded triumphantly,
and looked round as if challenging contradiction.
Outside, the battery crashed again, and the
crazy building shook about them to the sound.
A curious silence followed the salvo, because by
some chance the ranked batteries, strung out to
either side of them, had chosen the same interval
between their firing. Most of the men in the barn
had by this time sunk to sleep, but at the silence
they stirred uneasily, and many of them woke and
THE OVEBTUEE OF THE GUNS 31
raised themselves on their elbows, or sat up to
inquire sleepily **What was wrong nowt" or
'*What was the matter t^^ With the adaptability
under which men live in the fire zone, and with-
out which, in fact, they could hardly live and keep
their senses, they had in the space of an hour br
two become so accustomed to the noise of the
cannonade that its cessation had more power to
wake them than its noisiest outbursts ; and when,
after the silence had lasted a few brief minutes,
the batteries began to speak again, they turned
over or lay down and slid off into heedless sleep.
Somewhere about midnight there was another
awakening, and this time from a different cause —
a difference that is only in the note and nature of
the constant clamor of fire. Throughout the
night the guns had practically the say to them-
selves, bombs and rifles and machine guns alike
being beaten down into silence; but at midnight
something — some alarm, real or fancied — ^woke
the rifles to a burst of frenzied activity. The first
few stuttering reports swelled quickly to a long
drum-like rolL The machine guns caught up the
chorus, and rang through it in racketing and clat-
tering bursts of fire. The noise grew with the
minutes, and spread and spread, until it seemed
32 GRAPES OF WRATH
that the whole lines were engaged for miles in a
Arundel, awakened by the clamor, sat up. **Is
anybody awake f he asked in low tones, and in-
stantly a dozen voices around him answered.
**Is it the attack, do you supposed asked one,
and a mild argument arose on the question, some
declaring that they — ^the Stonewalls — ^would not
be left to sleep there in quietness if our line were
commencing the push; others maintaining that
secrecy was necessary as to the hour planned, be-
cause otherwise the Boches would be sure to know
it, and be ready for the attack.
** Maybe, '^ some one ventured the opinion, *4t's
them that's attacking us.** But this wild theorist
was promptly laughed out of court, it being the
settled conviction apparently of his fellows that
the Boche would not dare to attack when he knew
from the long bombardment that our lines must be
As the argument proceeded, Arundel felt a
touch on his elbow, heard the soft, drawling voice
of Kentucky at his ear.
**I*m going to take a little pasear outside, and
just see and hear anything I can of the proceed-
THE OVEETUBE OF THE GUNS 33
"Eight,*' said Arundel promptly. **I'm with
you; I^m not a bit sleepy, and we might find out
something of what it all means. * *
The two slipped on their boots, moved quietly
to the door, and stepped outside.
They walked round the end of the bam to where
they could obtain a view dear of the building and
out towards the front, and stood there some min-
utes in silence, watching and listening. A gentle
rise in the ground and the low crest of a hill hid
the trenches on both sides from their view, and
along this crest line showed a constant quivering,
pulsing flame of pale yellow light, dear and vivid
along its lower edge, and showing up in hard,
black silhouette every detail of the sky-line, every
broken tree stump, every ragged fragment of a
building's wall, every bush and heap of earth.
Above the crest the light faded and vignetted off
softly into the darkness of the night, a darkness
that every now and then was wiped out to the
height of half the sky by a blinding flash of light,
that winked and vanished and winked again and
again, as the guns on both sides blazed and flung
their shells unseeing but unerring to their mark.
Larry and Kentucky heard a call in the battery
near them, the quick rush of running feet, a sue-
34 GRAPES OF WRATH
cession of sharp, shouted orders. The next in-
stanty with a crash that made them jump, the six
gnns of the battery spoke with one single and
instantaneous voice. In the momentary gush of
flame from the muzzles, and of yellow light, that
blotted out aU other lights, the two men saw in
one quick glimpse the hedge, the leafy screens
above the guns, the guns themselves, and the gun-
ners grouped about them. Out to their right,
a moment after the darkness had flashed down
again over the battery, a neighboring group of
guns gave tongue in a rapid succession of evenly
spaced reports. This other battery itself was
hidden from the two watchers, but because of its
nearness, the flashes from it also flung a blinding
radiance upward into the night, reveaUng the out-
lines of every roof and building, hedge and tree,
that stood against the sky.
Their own battery, in answer to a hoarse bel-
lowing from the megaphone of ''Section Fire —
5 seconds," commenced to pound out a stream of
shells from gun after gun. Away to right and
left of them the other batteries woke and added
their din to the infernal chorus. The shells from
other and farther-back batteries were rushing and
THE OVERTURE OF THE GUNS 35
screaming overhead, and dying away in thin wait-
ings and whistlings in the distance.
Another and different note struck in, rising this
time from a shrill scream to a londer and lender
and more savage roar, and ending with an earth-
shaking crash and the shriek of flying splinters. A
shell had burst a bare hundred yards from where
the two stood, hurling some of its fragments over
and past them to rap with savage emphasis on
the stone and brick of the farm building.
Larry and Kentucky ducked hastily, and ran
crouching to the comer of their barn, as another
shrill whistle and rush warned them of the ap-
proaching shell. This time it burst farther off,
and although the two waited a full fifteen minutes,
no other shell came near, though along the crest
of the sky-line they could see quick-flashing burst
after burst and thick, billowing clouds of smoke
rising and drifting blackly against the background
of light beyond the slope.
The tornado of shell fire beat the rifles down
again to silence after some minutes. The rolling
rifle fire and clatter of machine guns died away
gradually, to no more than an occasional splutter,
and then to single shots. After that the artillery
slowed down to a normal rate of fire, a steady
36 GRAPES OF WRATH
succession of bangs and thuds and rumblings, that,
after the roaring tempest of noise of the past few
minutes, were no more than comparative quiet
^'I'm glad we came out,'' said Larry; **it was
quite a decent little show for a bit.''
Kentucky peered at him curiously. '*Did it
strike you," he said, **the number of guns there
were loosing off in that little show, and that most
of those the other side are going to be doing their
darnedest to spoil our little show, when it comes
/ the time for us to be over the parapet t"
**I suppose that's so," admitted Larry; **but
then, you see, our guns will be doing the same by
them, so the game ought to be even so far as that
goes. ' '
**The game!" repeated Kentucky reflectively.
* ' I notice quite a few of you boys talk of it as * a
game,' or *the game'; I wonder whyt"
* * I don 't know, ' ' said Larry, * * except that — oh,
well — ^just because it is a game, a beastly enough
one, I'll admit, but still a game that the best side
is going to win."
**The best side — — " said Kentucky, ^^ meaning,
I suppose, you — ^us t ' '
**Why, of course," said Larry, with utter and
THE EDGE OF BATTLE
The men were awakened early next morning, and
turned out, to find a gray, misty dawn. One might
have supposed that in the mist it would have been
impossible for the gunners to observe and direct
any fire, but for all that the artillery on both sides
were fairly heavily engaged, and the hangings
and thumpings and rumblings rolled away to right
and left, until they died down in the distance into
the dull, muffled booming of a heavy surf beating
on a long beach.
The Stonewalls breakfasted hastily on biscuits,
cheese, jam, and tea, were formed up, and moved
on to the road. They marched slowly up this
in the direction of the front, and presently found
the mist clearing away and then dispersing rap-
idly under the rays of the rising sun. It seemed
as if the first beams of sunrise were a signal to
the artillery, for the gunfire speeded up and up,
until it beat in one long reverberating roar on the
38 GEAPES OF WEATH
trembling air. The firing was not all from our
side either ; although for the moment none of the
enemy shells dropped very close to the Stonewalls,
there were enough of them sufficiently close to be
unpleasantly startling, and to send their frag-
ments whistling and whining over their hastily
About seven o'clock a new note began to run
through the bellowing of the guns — ^the sharp,
more staccato sound of the rifles and machine
guns, the distinctive bang of bombs and hand-
grenades. The rifle fire, hesitant and spasmodic
at first, swelled suddenly to a loud, deep, drum-
ming roll, hung there for several minutes, pitched
upward again to a still louder tone, then sank and
died away, until it was drowned out in the re-
doubled clamor of the guns.
The Stonewalls were halted and moved into the
side of the road, and squatted lining the ditches
and banks, listening to the uproar, discussing and
speculating upon its meaning.
* * Sounded like an attack, sure thing, * * said Ken-
tucky, **but whether our side is pushing or being
pushed I have not a notion. ' '
*^ Probably ours,'' said Larry; ^Hhe yarn was
THE EDGE OF BATTLE 39
going that we were to attack this morning, al-
though some said it was for to-morrow. ' ^
' * Anyway, ^ ^ said Pug, * ' if our lot *as gone over
they've either got it in the neck, and 'ad to 'ook
it back again, or else they're over the No-Man 's-
Land, and into the fust line. ' '
. ^^That's what," said Billy Simson. *'And 'ark
at the bombs and 'and-grenades bustin ' off nine-
teen to the dozen. That means we're bombin' our
way along the trenches and chuckin' 'em down
into the dug-outs. ' '
It was true that the distinctive sound of the
bursting bombs had risen again to a renewed ac-
tivity, and from somewhere further up or down
the line the rifle fire commenced again, and rose
to one long, continuous full-bodied roar. The
sound spread and beat down in rolling waves
nearer and nearer, ran outward again on both
flanks, continued loud and unceasing.
The Stonewalls were formed up and moved on
again, and presently came upon, and marched into,
the ruined fragments of a village, with shattered
and tumble-down houses lining the sides of the
road. They began to notice a new and significant
sound, the thin whistling and piping of bullets
passing high over their heads, the smack and
40 GEAPES OF WEATH
crack of an occasional one catching some upper
portion of the ruined houses past which they
marched. Here, too, they began to meet the first
of the backwash of battle, the limping figures of
men with white bandages about their heads, arms,
and bodies; the still forms at full length on the
sagging, reddened stretchers. At one of the
houses in the village a Eed Cross flag hung limp
over a broken archway, and through this the pro-
cession passed in an ever-quickening stream.
The village street rose to the crest of a gentle
slope, and when the Stonewalls topped the rise,
and began to move down the long gentle decline
on the other side, they seemed to step from the
outer courts into the inner chambers of war. Men
hung about the broken fragments of the buildings ;
ammunition carts were drawn up in angles and
comers of the remaining walls ; a couple of am-
bulances jolted slowly and carefully up the hill
towards them; the road was pittedSnd cratered
with shell holes ; the trees, that lined both sides of
it, trailed broken branches and jagged ends of
smashed off trunks, bore huge white scars and
patches, and strewed the road with showers of
leaves and twigs. The houses of the village, too,
on this side of the slope, had been reduced to utter
THE EDGE OF BATTLE 41
min. Only here and there were two- or three-
sided portions of a honse still standing; the rest
were no more than heaped aad tangled rubbish-
heaps of stone and brick, broken beams and wood-
worky shattered pieces of furniture, and litter of
By now the bullets were singing and whisking
overhead, crackling with vicious emphasis against
the trees and walls. And now, suddenly and with-
out the slightest warning, four shells rushed and
crashed down upon the road amongst the ruined
buildings. The men who had been hanging about
in the street vanished hastily into such cover as
they could find, and the Stonewalls, tramping
steadily down the shell-smashed, rubbish-strewn
street, flinched and ducked hastily to the quick
rush and crash of another string of shells. An
order was passed back, and the column divided
into two, half taking one side of the road, and half
the other ; the rear halting and lying down, while
the front moved off by platoons, with some fifty
to a hundred yards between each.
A German battery was evidently making a tar-
get of this portion of the road, for the shells con-
tinued to pound up and down its length. After the
sharp burst of one quartette fairly between the
42 GEAPES OF WEATH
ranks of a marching platoon, there was a call for
stretchers, and the regimental stretcher-bearers
came up at the double, busied themselves for a few
minutes about some cnmipled forms, lifted them,
and moved off along the road back to the Bed
Cross flag of the dressing station. The shell-
swept stretch of road was growing uncomfortably
dangerous, and it was with a good deal of relief
that the Stonewalls saw their leading platoon turn
aside and disappear into the entrance of a com-
*'This ^ere,'^ said Pug, with a sigh of satisfac-
tion, **is a blinkin^ sight more like the thing; and
why them lazy beggars of a Staff 'aven't ^ad this
communication trench took back a bit further beats
"It sure is a comfortable feeling,'' agreed Ken-
tucky, 'Ho hear those bullets whistling along up-
stairs, and we safe down below ground-level."
The communication trench was very narrow and
twisted, and wormed its way for an interminable
distance towards the still constant rattle of rifle
fire and banging grenades. The men had not the
slightest idea what had happened, or what was
happening. Some of them had asked questions of
the stretcher-bearers or of the wounded back in
THE EDGE OF BATTLE 43
the village, but these it appeared had come from
the support trenches and from the firing-line be-
fore the uproar of rifle fire had indicated the
commencement of an attack by one side or the
other. The long, straight, single-file line of Stone-
walls moved slowly and with frequent checks and
halts for over an hour ; then they were halted and
kept waiting for a good thirty minutes, some chaf-
ing at their inaction, others perfectly content to
sit there in the safety of the deep trench. A few
men tried to raise themselves and climb the
straight^sided walls of the trench to the level
ground, but the long grass growing there still hid
their view, and the few who would have climbed
right out on to the level were sharply reprimanded
and ordered back by the officers and N.C.O.s ; so
the line sat or stood leaning against the walls,
listening to the unintelligible sounds of the con-
flict, trying to glean some meaning and under-
standing of the action's progress from them.
The section of trench where Larry and his
friends were waiting was suddenly overcast by a
shadow, and the startled men, glancing hastily
upward, saw to their astonishment a couple of
Highlanders standing over and looking down upon
them. One had a red, wet bandage about his head,
44 GBAPES OF WEATH
the other his hose-top slit down and dangling
about his ankle, and a white bandage wound round
the calf of his leg. The two stood for a minute
looking down upon the men crouching and squat-
ting in their shelter, on men too astonished for the
moment to speak or do aught save gape upwards
at the two above them. Somehow, after their relief
at escaping from the open into the shelter of the
trench, after the doubts and misgivings with which
some of them had ventured to raise themselves
and peer out above ground level, the angry orders
given to them to get back and not expose them-
selves, after having, in fact, felt themselves for an
hour past to be separate only from a sudden and
violent death by the depth of their shelter trench,
it took their 'breath away to see two men walking
about and standing with apparent unconcern upon
a bullet-swept level, completely without protec-
tion, indifferent to that fact But they recovered
quickly from their amazement.
*' Holloa, Jock,'' Pug called up to them, *^ what's
the latest news in the dispatches! 'Ave we com-
menced the attack t"
** Commenced t Aye, and gey near finished, as
far as we're concerned."
There was a quick chorus of questions to this.
THE EDGE OF BATTLE 45
**How far had we gonef **Was the first line
taken t" *'Was the attack pushing onf **Had
the casualties been heavy f and a score of other
The two Highlanders bobbed down hastily, as
a heavy shell fell with a rolling cr-r-r-funp within
a hundred yards of them.
**WeVe got the first line where we attacked,"
said one of them after a moment, ^^and we're
pushing on to the second. They say that we have
taken the second and third lines down there on the
right, but the Huns are counter-attacking, and
have got a bit of the third line back. I 'm no ' sure
what's happened on the left, but I'm hearin' the
attack was held, and pretty near wiped out. I
only ken that our lot is tryin' to bomb up there to
the left, and no' makin' much progress."
His companion rose and stepped across the nar-
"Come on, Andy," he said, **we'll awa' back to
the dressin' station, and the first train to the
North. This is no ' just a health resort to be bidin '
in. Good luck to you, lads. ' '
**Good luck, so long," chorused the trench after
fhem, and the two vanished from sight.
There was a buzz of excited talk after they had
46 GRAPES OF WEATH
gone — ^talk that lasted until word was passed back
along the trench and the line rose and commenced
to stumble onward again.
**I suppose/' said Larry, ** they'll be moving us
up in support. I hope we get out of this beastly
trench soon, and see something of what's going
Billy Simson grunted. * ' Maybe we '11 see plenty,
and maybe a bit too much, when we get out of
here,'' he said, *'and it is decently safe down
here anyhow. ' '
Pug snorted. ^^Safef" he echoed; **no safer
than it is above there, by the look of them two
Jocks. They don't seem to be worritin' much
about it being safe. I believe we would be all
right to climb up out of this sewer and walk like
bloomin' two-legged humans above ground, in-
stead of crawling along 'ere like rats in a 'Ampton
Court maze of drains."
But, whether they liked it or not, the Stonewalls
were condemned to spend most of that day in
their drains. They moved out at last, it is true,
from the communication trench into one of the
support trenches, and from this they could catch
an occasional narrow glimpse of the battlefield.
They were little the wiser for that, partly because
THE EDGE OF BATTLE 47
the view gave only a restricted vision of a maze of
twisting lines of parapets, of which they could tell
no difference between British and German; of
tangles of rusty barbed wire; and, beyond these
things, of a drifting haze of smoke, of puffing
white bursts of cotton wool-like smoke from shrap-
nel, and of the high explosives spouting gushes of
heavy black smoke, that leaped from the ground
and rose in tall columns with slow-spreading tops.
They could not even tell which of these shells
were friends' and which were foes^ or whether
they were falling in the British or the German
Pug was frankly disgusted with the whole per-
**The people at 'ome,'' he complained, **will see \
a blinkin' sight more of this show in the picture
papers and the kinema shows than me what 's 'ere
in the middle of it. ' '
** Don't you fret. Pug," said Larry; ** we'll see
all we 're looking for presently. Those regiments
up front must have had a pretty hot strafing, and
they're certain to push us up from the supports
into the firing-line."
'*I don't see what you've got to grumble about,"
put in Billy Simson; ''we're snug and comfortable
48 GRAPES OF WEATH
enough here, and personally I'm not in any hurry
to be trottin' out over the open, with the German
Army shootin' at me.''
**I admit I'm not in any hurry to get plugged
myself," drawled Kentucky, **but I've got quite a
big mite of sympathy for Pug 's feelings. I 'm sure
getting some impatient myself."
** Anyway," said Pug, *4t's about time we 'ad
some grub ; who's feelin' like a chunk of bully and
The others suddenly woke to the fact that they
also were hungry. Bully beef and biscuits were
produced, and the four sat and ate their meal, and
lit cigarettes, and smoked contentedly after it, with
the roar of battle ringing in their ears, with the
shells rumbling and moaning overhead, and the
bullets piping and hissing and singing past above
After their meal, in the close, stagnant air of
the trench they began to feel drowsy, and pres-
ently they settled themselves in the most comfort-
able positions possible, and dozed off to sleep.
They slept for a good half hour, heedless of all
the turmoil about them, and they were roused by
a word passed down along the trench.
They rose, and shook the packs into place on
THE EDGE OF BATTLE 49
their shoulders, tightened and settled the straps
about them, patted their ammunition pouches, felt
the bayonets slip freely in their scabbards, tried
the bolts and action of their rifles, and then stood
waiting with a curious thrill, that was made up of
expectation, of excitement, of fear, perhaps — ^they
hardly knew what. For the word passed along
had been to get ready, that the battalion was
moving up into the firing-line.
ACBOSS THE OPEN
The order came at last to move, and the men began
to work their way along the support trench to the
communication trenches which led up into the
Up to now the battalion, singularly enough con-
sidering the amount of shelling that was going on,
had escaped with comparatively few casualties,
but they were not to escape much longer. As their
line trickled slowly down the communication
trench, Pug had no more than remarked on how
cheaply they had got off so far, when a six- or
eight-inch high-explosive shell dropped with a
rolling crump, that set the ground quivering, close
to the communication trench. The men began to
mend their pace, and to hurry past the danger
zone, for they knew well that where one shell fell
there was almost a certainty of others falling. A
second and a third shell pitched close to the other
side of the trench, but the fourth crashed fairly
ACEOSS THE OPEN 51
and squarely into the trench itself, blowing ont a
portion of the walls, killing and wounding a num-
ber of men, and shaking down a torrent of loose
earth which half choked and filled that portion of
the trench. The communication ways, and, indeed,
all trenches, are constructed on a principle of
curves and zig-zags, designed expressly to localize
the effect of a shell bursting in any one portion.
Practically every man in this particular section
of trench was either killed or wounded, but the rest
of the line did not suffer. But the German gun-
ners, having found their target, and having pre-
sumably, observed their direct hit upon it, had their
direction and range exactly, and they proceeded
to pound that portion of the trench to pieces, and
to make it a matter of desperate hazard for any
man to cross the zone covered by their fire. The
zone, of course, had to be crossed, the only other
alternative being to climb out of the trench and
run across the open until the further shelter was
reached. There was a still greater hazard at-
tached to thiSj for the open ground in this locality
— as the officers knew — was visible to the German
Unes, and would expose the men, immediately
upon their showing above ground, to a certain
sweeping torrent of shrapnel, of machine-gun and
52 GRAPES OF WRATH
rifle fire. So the portion of the battalion which
was making its way down that commnnication
trench was set to run the gauntlet of the smashed-
in trench, and the shells which continued to arrive
— fortunately — ^with almost methodical punctual-
The procedure adopted was for the end of the
line to halt just short of the fire zone, to wait there,
crouched low in the bottom of the trench, until
a shell had burst, then to rise and run, scrambling
and climbing over the fallen debris, into the com-
parative safety of the unbroken trench beyond,
until the officer who was conducting the timing
arrangements thought another shell was due to
arrive, and halted the end of the line to wait until
the next burst came, after which the same per-
formance was repeated.
Larry and his three chums, treading close on
one another's heels, advanced and halted alter-
nately, as the leading portion of the line rushed
across or stayed. They came presently to a turn
of the trench, where an officer stopped them and
bade them lie down, keep as close as they could^
and be ready to jump and run when the next
shell burst and he gave the word. The four
waited through long seconds, their ears straining
ACROSS THE OPEN 53
for the sound of the approaching shell, their eyes
set upon the officer.
"Here she comes/' said Billy Simson, flattening
himself still closer to the trench bottom.
They all heard that thin but ominously rising
screech, and each instinctively shrank and tried
absurdly to make himself smaller than his size.
**Just a-going to begin,'' said Larry, with a
somewhat forced attempt at lightness of tone.
** Don't you wish you was a bloomin' periwin-
kle," said Pug, "with a bullet-proof shell?"
There was no time for more. The screech had
risen to a rushing bellow, and the next instant
the shell dropped with a tumultuous crash, and the
air was darkened with a cloud of evil-smelling
black smoke, thick, choking, and blinding dust.
The four were dazed and shaken with the shock,
half-stunned with the thunderclap of noise, and
stupefied with the nearness of their escape. But
the next instant they were aroused to hear the
voice of the officer beside them, calling and shout-
ing to them to get up, to go on, to hurry across.
"Get on!" repeated Pug, scrambling to his
knees and feet. "My oath, get on. I wouldn't
stop 'ere if I 'ad an invitation to tea with the King % |
54 GRAPES OF WRATH
* * Come, you fellows 1 * ' said Larry, and ran with
his shoulders stooped, and dosely followed by the
other three, along a short, unbroken portion of
the trench, out into where it was broken down and
choked to half its height with the debris of fallen
earth and stones. Over this the four clambered
and scuffled hastily, to find the trench beyond it
wrecked out of semblance to a trench, a tossed
and tumbled shallow gutter, with sides fallen in
or blown completely out, with huge craters pitting
the ground to either side of it, with the black reek
and thick dust still curling and writhing and
slowly drifting clear from the last explosion. And
in that broken welter were the fragments of more
than earth or stone ; a half -buried patch of khaki,
a broken rifle, a protruding boot, were significant
of the other and more dreadful fragments buried
Larry and the other three did not, to be sure,
waste time upon their crossing, but, rapidly as
they thought they were moving, they still man-
aged to accelerate their pace as their ears caught
the warning sound of another approaching shell,
and within a few seconds of hearing its first sound,
and the moment when it burst, they had rushed
across the remaining portion of the fire-zone, had
ACEOSS THE OPEN 55
flung themselves down the sides of the last earth
heap, leaped to their feet, and dashed breathlessly
into the next unbroken portion of the communica-
tion trench. They did not attempt to halt there,
but ran on panting and blowing heavily, their
packs and haversacks scrubbing one side or the
other of the trench, their heads stooped, and their
shoulders rounded like men expecting a heavy
blow upon their backs. This shell did not pitch
into the broken ground where the others had
blasted the trench out of any recognizable shape.
It burst overhead with a sharp, ear-splitting crack,
a puff of thick, yellowish-white smoke, a hail of
bullets and flying splinters.
The four men instinctively had half-thrown
themselves, half-fallen in the bottom of the trench.
It was well they did so, for certainly not all of
them could have escaped the huge piece of metal
which had been the head of the shell, and which
spun down the portion of trench they were in,
with a viciously ugly whirr, to bury itself a couple
of feet above the footway in the wall, where the
trench twisted sharply. It struck close to Pug,
so close indeed that when it hit the wall, and then
by its own force, breaking down the earth, feU
with it into the trench bottom. Pug was able to
56 GRAPES OF -W^RATH
stretch out his hand ancj touch it. He gave a
N^harp yelp of pain and surprise as he did so,
Vhipped his hand in again, and under his armpit.
** Strike me!^' he exclaimed, with comical sur-
prise, **the bloomin^ thing is red 'of
**Come on!'' gasped Billy Simson, struggling
to his feet again. * * This whole blankey corner 's
too red 'ot for my likin'."
They rose, and pushed hastily on down the
winding trench. After that, although they them-
selves had no especially close shaves, the rest of
the line suffered rather severely, for the German
gun or guns that had been bombarding the one
section of trench now spread their fire and began
to pitch high explosives up and down along its
whole length. The four had to traverse another
short section that had been swept by a low-burst-
ing shrapnel, and after they had passed it, Larry
found his knees shaking, and his face wet with cold
'^Kentuck!" he gulped, '*I'm afraid — ^I'm sorry
— I think I 'm going to be beastly sick 1 ' '
Kentucky, immediately behind him, urged him
*'Get along, Larry!" he said; **you can't stop
here ! You 'U block the whole line ! ' '
ACROSS THE OPEN 57
But the line for the moment was blocked. That
shell-burst had left few alive in the section of
trench, but the two or three it had not killed out-
right had been dragged clear, and down the trench
a little way. Now the men who had taken them
out had stopped and laid them down and were
shouting vainly — and rather wildly — for \
stretcher-bearers, and endeavoring — some of the j
more cool-headed amongst them — to fumble out /
first field-dressings and apply them to the worst
of the many wounds. They halted there, busy, and
heedless for the moment of anything else, for a
full ten minutes, while the trench behind them
filled with men pressing on, shouting angrily, and
unknowing the cause of the block, to "Move on
there!'' to **Get out of the way!*'
The end of the line next to the wounded men
was forced to try and push forward; the trench
was narrow, barely wide enough at its floor-level
to accommodate the figures stretched out in it and
the men who stooped or knelt over them fimibling
at them, rolling and tying the field-dressing band-
ages upon them; but the men made shift some-
how to pass them, striding and straddling over
their huddled bodies, squeezing past the men who
tried to dress the wounds. These still struggled
58 GRAPES OF WEATH
to complete their task, quite absorbed in it,
straightening themselves and flattening their
bodies against the trench wall to allow a man to
scrape past, stooping again about their work.
** Who has got a spare field-dressing f or *'Give
us your field-dressing,*' was all they took time to
say to the men of the passing line, until a wrath-
ful voice above suddenly interrupted them.
One of the officers, fretting at the delay and the
slow progress down the trench, had climbed out
and run, risking the shells and bullets along the
level, to find the cause of the check. He shouted
angrily at the men below him :
'^Wounded? What's that got to do with itf
That's no reason you should block the whole com-
pany going forward. Where do you think you 're
in — a communication trench or a field-dressing-
station or a base hospital? Pick those men up —
two of you to each man — and carry them along
until you can find a place to lay them where you
won't choke the whole trench ; or carry them right
on out of the communication trench."
The wounded men were picked up somehow or
anyhow by knees and shoulders, and carried and
shuffled and bumped along the winding trench, un-
ACROSS THE OPEN 59
til th^y emerged into the old British front-line
Along this the Stonewalls now spread and took
np their positions as supports for the lines that
had gone ahead, and were now over somewhere
amongst the German first-line trenches. From
here they could look out over the couple of hun-
dred yards' width of what had been the neutral
ground, at the old German front-line trench. Be-
yond its parapet they could see little or nothing
but a drifting haze of smoke, but in the open
ground between the trenches they could see many
figures moving about, and many more lying in
still and huddled heaps of khaki. The moving men
were for the most part stretcher-bearers, and the
Stonewalls were struck with what appeared to
them the curious lack of haste and indifference to
danger that showed in their movements. During
many months, and in many visits to the trenches
and spells in the forward fire trench, they had
come to regard the neutral ground in daylight as
a place whereon no man could walk, or show him-
self, and live; more than that, they had been
taught by strongly worded precept and bitter ex-
perience that only to raise a head above the shel-
ter of the parapet, to look for more than seconds at
60 GRAPES OF WRATH
a time over neutral ground, was an invitation to
sudden death. It struck them then as a most ex-
traordinary thing that now men should be able to
walk about out there, to carry a stretcher in, to
hoist it, climbing and balancing themselves and
their burden carefully on the parapet, dear and
exposed to any chance or aimed bullet.
Kentucky watched some of these groups for a
time and then laughed quietly.
**Well!'' he drawled, **IVe been kind of scared
stiff for days past at the thought of having to bolt
across this open ground, and here I come and find
a bunch of fellows promenading around as cool
and unconcerned as if there weren't a bullet within
a mile of them. ' '
**I was thinkin' just the same thing, *' agreed
Pug, who was beside him, and looking with inter-
est and curiosity over the open ground; *'but if
there ain't many bullets buzzin' about 'ere now
you can bet there was not long ago. There's a
pretty big crowd of ours still lying na-poo-ed out
But the ground was stiU far from being as safe
as for the moment it appeared. The German artil-
lery and the machine-gunners were evidently too
busily occupied upon the more strenuous work
ACROSS THE OPEN 61
of checkmg the advance, or did not think it worth \
while wasting ammunition upon the small and '
scattered targets presented by the stretcher-bear- \
ers. But when a regiment which prolonged the
line to the left of the Stonewalls climbed from
the trench, and began to advance by companies
in open order across the neutral ground, it was a /
An exclamation from Pug and a soft whistle
from Kentucky brought Larry to the parapet be-
side them, and the three watched in fascinated
excitement the attempt of the other regiment to
cross the open, the quick storm of shells and bul-
lets that began to sweep down upon them the
moment they showed themselves clear of the para-
pet. They could see plainly the running figures,
could see them stumble and fall, and lie still, or
turn to crawl back to cover ; could see shell after
shell burst above the line, or drop crashing upon
it ; could see even the hail of bullets that drummed
down in little jimaping spurts of dust about the
feet of the runners.
A good many more of the Stonewalls were
watching the advance, and apparently the line
of their heads, showing over the parapet, caught
the attention of some German machine-gunners.
62 GEAPES OF WRATH
The heads ducked down hastily as sl stream of
bullets commenced to batter and rap against the
parapet, sweeping it up and down, down and up
** Doesn't seem quite as safe as we fancied, ''
**I don't think!'' said Pug.
'^Anyway," said Larry, *4t's our turn next!"
He was right, for a few minutes later their
officer pushed along and told them to * * Stand by, ' '
to be ready to climb out when the whistle blew,
and to run like blazes for the other side.
**We'll run all right," said Pug to the others,
*4f them jokers lets us," and he jerked his head
upwards to the sound of another pelting sweep
of bullets driving along the face of the parapet
Before the whistle blew as the signal for them
to leave the trench, an order was passed along
that they were to go company by company, A
being first, B second, and C third. A couple of
minutes later A Company, out on the right of the
battalion, swarmed suddenly over the parapet and,
spreading out to open order as they went, com-
menced to jog steadily across the flat ground. Im-
mediately machine-gun fire at an extreme range
ACROSS THE OPEN 63
began to patter bullets down amongst the advanc-
ing men, and before they were quarter- way across
the '* Fizz-Bang'' shells also began to smash down
along the line, or to burst over it. There were a
number of casualties, but the line held on steadily.
Some of the men of the remaining companies were
looking out on the advance, but the officers ordered
them to keep down, and under cover.
In C Company a lieutenant moved along the line,
ordering the men down, and repeating the same
sentences over and over again as he passed along.
*'Keep down until you get the word; when we
start across, remember that, if a man is hit, no
one is to stop to pick him up; a stretcher-bearer
will see to him. ' '
*' That's all right 1" said Larry to the others,
when the officer had passed after repeating his
set sentences, '*but I vote we four keep together,
and give each other a hand, if we can."
*' 'Ear, 'ear!" said Pug. **Any'ow, if any of
us stops one, but isn't a complete wash-out, the
others can lug 'im into any shell 'ole that 's 'andy,
and leave 'im there. ' '
*'We'll call that a bargain," said Kentucky
briefly. They sat fidgeting for a few seconds
longer, hearing the rush and crash of the falling
64 GEAPES OF WRATH
shells, the whistle and smack of the bullets on the
open ground beyond them.
**I'm going to have a peep,'* said Larry sud-
denly, **just to see how *A' is getting on/'
He stood on the fire step, with his head stooped
cautiously below the level of the parapet; then,
raising it sharply, took one long, sweeping glance,
and dropped down again beside his fellows.
'* They 're nearly over," he said. *' There's a
lot of smoke about, and I can't see very clear,
but the line doesn't look as if it had been very
badly knocked about."
*' There goes *B,' " said Billy Simson, as they
heard the shrill trill of a whistle. '*Our turn
**That open ground is not such a healthy re-
sort afi we thought it a few minutes ago," said
Larry. ** Personally, I sha'n't be sorry when
we're across it."
He spoke in what he strove to make an easy
and natural voice, but somehow he felt that it was
so strained and unnatural that the others would
surely notice it. He felt horribly ashamed of that
touch of faintness and sickness back in the com-
munication trench, and began to wonder nerv-
ously whether the others would think he was a
ACROSS THE OPEN 65
coward, and funking it ; still worse, began to won-
der whether actually they would be right in so
thinking. He began to have serious doubts of the \
matter himself, but, if he had known it, the others
were feeling probably quite as uncomfortable as
himself, except possibly Pug, who had long since
resigned himself to the comforting fatalism that /
if his name were written on the bullet it would
find him. If not, he was safe.
None of the four looked to see how '*B'^ Com-
pany progressed. They were all beginning to feel
that they would have to take plenty of chances
when it came their turn to climb the parapet, and
that it was folly to take an extra risk by exposing
themselves for a moment before they need.
A shout came from the traverse next to theuL
**Get ready, *C' Company; pass the word!'*
The four stood up, and Larry lifted his voice,
and shouted on to the next traverse.
**Gtet ready, *C'; pass the word!**
*' Don't linger none on the parapet, boys,'' said
Kentucky. ** They've probably got their machine
gun trained on it. * '
The next instant they heard the blast of a
whistle, and a shout rang along the line.
**Come on, *C'; over with you!"
66 GRAPES OF WRATH
The four leaped over the parapet, scrambling
and scuf9ing up its broken sides.
Near the top Pug exclaimed suddenly, grasped
wildly at nothing, collapsed and rolled backward
into the trench. The other three half -halted, and
**Come on,'* said Kentucky; **he's safest where
he is, whether he 's hurt much or little. ' '
The three picked their way together out through
the remains of the old barbed-wire entanglements,
and began to run across.
* * Open out 1 Open out 1 ' ' the officers were shout-
ing, and a little reluctantly, for the dose elbow-
touching proximity to each other gave a comfort-
ing sense of helpfulness and confidence, they
swerved a yard or two apart, and ran on steadily.
The bare two hundred yards seemed to stretch to
a journey without end ; the few minutes they took
in crossing spun out like long hours.
Several times the three dropped on their faces,
as they heard the warning rush of a shelL Once
they half -fell, were half-thrown down by the force
of an explosion within twenty yards of them.
They rose untouched, by some miracle, and, gasp-
ing incoherent inquiries to one another, went on
again. Over and over again fragments from the
ACROSS THE OPEN 67
shells bursting above the line rattled down ui)on
the ground amongst their feet. At least two or
three times a shell bursting on the ground spat-
tered them with dust and crumbs of earth; the
whole way across they were accompanied by the
drumming bullets that flicked and spurted little
clouds of dust from the ground about them, and
all the time they were in the open they were fear-
fully conscious of the medley of whining and sing-
ing and hissing and zipping sounds of the passing
bullets. They knew nothing of how the rest of
the line was faring. They were too taken up
with their own part, were too engrossed in picking
^ a way over the broken shell-cratered ground, past
the still khaki forms that lay dotted and sprawled
the whole way across.
There was such a constant hail and stream of
bullets, such a succession of rushing shells, of
crashing explosions, such a wild chaos of sounds
and blinding smoke and choking reek, that the
whole thing was like a dreadful nightmare; but
the three came at last, and unharmed, to the
chopped and torn-up fragments of the old German
wired defenses, tore through them somehow or
anyhow, leaped and fell over the smashed-in para-
pet, and dropped panting and exhausted in the
68 GRAPES OF WEATH
wrecked remains of the German trench. It was
some minutes before they took thought and breath,
but then it was evident that the minds of all ran
in the same groove.
**I wonder,'' said Larry, *4f Pug was badly
**IVe no idea," said Kentucky. **He went
down before I could turn for a glimpse of him."
**I don't suppose it matters much," said Billy
Simson gloomily. **He's no worse off than the
rest of us are likely to be before we're out of this.
Seems to me, by the row that's goin' on over there,
this show is gettin' hotter instead of slackin' off."
ON CAPTUBED GBOUKD
**I woNDEB what the next move isf said Larry.
**I don't fancy they will leave us waiting here
** Don't you suppose," asked Kentucky, "we'll
wait here until the other companies get across?"
**Lord knows," said Larry ; "and, come to think
of it, Kentuck, has it struck you how beastly little
we do know about anything? We've pushed their
line in a bit, evidently, but how far we've not an
idea. We don't know even if their first line is
captured on a front of half a mile, or half a hun-
dred miles; we don't know what casualties we've
got in our own battalion, or even in our own com-
pany, mudi less whether they have been heavy or
light in the whole attack. ^'
"That's so," said Kentucky; "although I con-
fess none of these things is worrying me much.
I'm much more concerned about poor old Pug
being knocked out than I'd be about our losing
fifty per cent, of half a dozen regiments."
70 GRAPES OF WEATH
Billy Simson had taken the cork from his water-
bottle, and, after shaking it lightly, reluctantly
replaced the cork, and swore violently.
**IVe hardly a monthful left,*' he said. *'I'm
as dry as a bone now, and the Lord only knows
when we'll get a chance of filling our water-bottles
**Here you are,*' said Larry; **you can have a
mouthful of mine; I've hardly touched it yet.'*
Orders came down presently to close in to the
right, and in obedience the three picked up their -
rifles and crept along the trench. It was not a
pleasant journey. The trench had been very badly
knocked about by the British bombardment; its
sides were broken in, half or wholly filling the
trench; in parts it waS* obliterated and lost in a
jumble of shell craters ; ground or trench was lit-
tered with burst sandbags, splintered planks and
broken fascines, and every now and again the
three had to step over or past bodies of dead men
lying huddled alone or in groups of anything up
to half a dozen. There were a few khaki forms
amongst these dead, but most were in the German
gray, and most had been killed very obviously and
horribly by shell or bomb or grenade.
**They don't seem to have had many men hold-
ON CAPTUEED GROUND 71
ing this front line, ' ' remarked Larry, * * or a good
few must have bolted or surrendered. Doesn't
seem as if the little lot here could have done much
to hold the trench/'
''Few men and a lot of machine guns, as usual,
I expect," said Kentucky. ''And if this is all the
trench held they claimed a good bunch of ours
for every one of theirs, if you judge by the crowd
of our lot lying out there in the open."
The three were curiously unmoved by the sight
of these dead — ^and dead, be it noted, who have
been killed by shell fire or bomb explosions might
as a rule be expected to be a sight upsetting to
the strongest nerves. They were all slightly and
somewhat xjasually interested in noting the mode
and manner of death of the different men, and
the suspicion of professional jealousy evinced by
a remark of Billy Simson's was no doubt more or
less felt by all, and all were a little disappointed
that there was not more evidence of the bayonet
having done its share. "The bloomin' guns seem
to have mopped most o' this lot," said Billy.
"An* them fellers that charged didn^t find many
to get their own back on." They were all inter-
ested, too, in the amount of damage done by the
shells to the trench, in the methods of trench con-
72 GRA.PES OF WEATH
struction, in the positions and state of the dug-
outs. And yet all these interests were to a great
extent of quite a secondary nature, and the main
<flieme of their thoughts was the bullets whistling
avair..ti][!Em, iiro rush-j^ and crash of the
shells still falling out on thie* open, the singing
and whirring of their splinters above the trench. '
They moved with heads stooped and bodies half-
crouched, they hurried over the earth heaps that
blocked the trench, and in crossings where they
were more exposed, halted and crouched still
lower under cover when thfe louder and rising
roar of a shelPs approach gave warning that it
was falling near.
When they had moved up enough to be in close
touch with the rest of the company and halted
there, they found themselves in a portion of trench
with a dug-out entrance in it. The entrance was
almost closed by a fall of earth, brought down
apparently by a bursting shell, and when they
arrived they found some of the other men of the
company busy clearing the entrance. ^* Might be
some soo-veniers down 'ere, ' ' one of the men ex-
plained. **An', anyhow, we'd be better down be-
low an' safer out o' reach b' any shell that flops
in while we're 'ere,'' said another.
ON CAPTURED GROUND 73
*^ Suppose there's some bloomin' TJns still
there, lyin* doggo, '* suggested Billy Simson.
**They might plunk a shot at yer when you goes
down. ' '
** Shouldn't think that's likely," said Larry.
**They would know that if they did they'd get
wiped out pretty quick after."
*'I dunno," said one of the men. **They say
their oflScers an' their noospapers 'as 'em stuffed
so full o ' fairy tales about us killing all prisoners
that they thinks they're goin' to get done in any-
how, an' might as well make a last kick for it. I
vote we chuck a couple o ' bombs down first, just to
make sure. "
Everybody appeared to think this a most natu-
ral precaution to take, and a proposal in no way
cruel or brutal ; although, on the other hand, when
Larry, with some feeling that it was an unsporting
arrangement, suggested that they call down first
and give any German there a chance to surrender,
everybody quite willingly accepted the suggestion.
So work was stopped, and aU waited and listened
while Larry stuck his head into the dark opening
and shouted with as inquiring a note as he could
put into his voice the only intelligible German he
knew, ^ ' Hi, AUemands^ kamerad f ' ' There was no
74 GRAPES OF WEATH
answer, and he withdrew his head. **I don't hear
anything,*' he said; *'but perhaps they wouldn't
nnderstand what I meant, I'll just try them
again in French and English." He poked his
head in again, and shouted down first in French
and then in English, asking if there was anybody
there, and did they surrender. He wound up with
a repetition of his inquiring, ''Kamerad, eh? kam-
erad?" but this time withdrew his head hurriedly,
as an unmistakable answer came up to him, a muf-
fled, faraway sounding ^*Kamerad." ** There's
some of them there, after all, " he said, excitedly,
*^ and they're shouting 'Kamerad,' so I suppose
they want to surrender all right. Let's clear away
enough of this to get them out. We'll make 'em
come one at a time with their hands well up. ' '
There was great excitement in the trench, and
this rather increased when a man pushed round
the traverse from the next section with the news
that some Germans had been found in another
dug-out there. ** They 're singin' out that they
want to kamerad," he said; *'but we can't i)er-
suade 'em to come out, an' nobody is very keen
on goin' down the 'ole after 'em. We've passed
the word along for an officer to come an' see what
'e can do with 'em."
ON CAPTUEED GROUND 75
**Let*s hurry up and get our gang out,'*
said Larry enthusiastically, "before the oflSoer
comes'*; and the men set to work with a will to
clear the dug-out entrance. *^It*s rather a score
for the Stonewalls to bring in a bunch of pris-
oners, ' ' said one of the men. * * We ought to search
all these dug-outs. If there's some in a couple of
these holes it's a fair bet that there's more in the
others. Wonder how they haven't been found by
the lot that took the trench?"
** Didn't have time to look through all the dug-
outs, I suppose," said Larry. **And these chaps
would lie low, thinking the trench might be re-
taken. I think that hole is about big enough for
them to crawl out. Listen! They're shouting
*Kamerad' again. Can't you hear 'em?"
He looked down the dark stairway of the en-
trance and shouted **Kamerad" again, and lis-
tened for the reply. **I wonder if the door is
blocked further down, ' ' he said. * * I can hear them
shout, but the sound seems to be blocked as if
there was something between us and them still.
This time they all heard a faint shout, *'Kam-
erad. Hier kom. Kamerad."
**Hier kom — ^that means come here, I fancy,"
76 GRAPES OF WEATH
said Larry. * * But why don 't they hier kom to us ?
Perhaps it is that they're buried in somehow and
want us to get them out. Look here, I'm going
to crawl down these steps and find out what's up."
He proceeded to creep cautiously down the low
and narrow passage of the stair, when suddenly
he saw at the stair foot the wandering flash of an
' electric torch and heard voices calling plainly in
\ English to * * Come out, Bochie. Kamerad. ' '
'^ The truth flashed on Larry, and he turned and
^ttled hsLck up the stair gurgling laughter. ^ 'It's
fliome of our own lot down there, ' ' he chuckled to
the others. * * This dug-out must have another en-
[trance in the next traverse, and we and the fel-
lows round there have been shouting down the
two entrauces at each other. Hold on now and
! listen and hear them scatter." He leaned in at
■ the entrance again, and shouted loudly. *'As you
won't come out and surrender, Boche, we're going
to throw some bombs down on you." He picked
iup a heavy stone from the trench bottom and
^ flung it down the steps. There was a moment of
petrified silence, then a yell and a scuffling rush of
footsteps from the darkness below, while Larry
and the others sat and rocked with laughter above.
They pushed round the traverse just as a couple
ON CAPTUEED GROUND 77
of badly scared and wholly amazed Stonewalls
scrambled up from the dug-out, and commenced
a voluble explanation that * * the blighters is chuck-
in' bombs, . . . told us in English, good^plain
English, too, they was goin' to 'cos we wouldn't
Just then an officer pushed his way along to
them, and the joke was explained with great glee
by Larry and the men from the other part of the
trench. Every one thought it a huge joke, and
laughed and cracked jests, and chuckled over the
episode. Kentucky listened to them with some
wonder. He had thought that in the past months
of peace and war he had come to know and un-
derstand these comrades of his fairly well. And
yet here was a new side in their many-sided char-
acters that once more amazed him. A couple of
dead Germans sprawled in the bottom of the
trench a yard or two from them ; their own dead
lay crowded thick on the flat above; the bullets
and shells continued to moan and howl overhead,
to rush and crash down dose by, the bullets to
pipe and whistle and hiss past and over; while
only a few hundred yards away the enemy still
fought desperately to hold their lines against our
attacks, and all the din of battle rolled and rever-
78 GRAPES OF WEATH
berated unceasingly. And yet the men in that
trendi laughed and joked. They knew not the
moment when one of those shells falling so close
outside might smash into the trench amongst
them, knew that all of those there would presently
be deep in the heart of the battle and slaughter
that raged so close to them, knew for a certainty
that some of them would never come out of it;
and yet — ^they laughed. Is it any wonder that
Kentucky was amazed?
And they continued to chuckle and poke fun at
the two who had been the butt of the jest and had
run from the flung stone, continued even as they
began to move slowly along the ruined trench that
led towards the din of the fighting front lines.
"C Company of the Stonewalls progressed
slowly for some distance up the communication
trench, with the whistling of bullets growing faster
the nearer they approached to the firing line. This
trench too had been badly damaged previous to
the attack by the British artillery, and the cover
it afforded to the crawling line of men was fre-
quently scanty, and at times was almost nil.
/There were one or two casualties from chance
bullets as men crawled over the debris of wrecked
portions of the trendi, but the line at last reached
wWt had been one of the German support
trenches, and spread along it, without serious loss.
This trench had been reversed by our Engineers,
that is to say, the sandbags and parapet on what
had been its face, looking towards the British
line, had been pulled down and re-piled on the new
front of the trench, which now looked towards the
ground still held by the Germans. The trench was
80 GRAPES OF WEATH
only some three to four hundred yards behind
what was here the most advanced British line, the
line from which some of our regiments were at-
tacking, and in which they were being attacked.
Practically speaking, therefore, the Stonewalls
knew their position was well up on the outer
fringe of the infantry fighting, and through it
swirled constantly eddies from the firing line in
the shape of wounded men and stretcher-bearers,
and trickling but constantly running streams
of feeders to the fighting — ammunition carriers,
staggering under the weight of anmiunition boxes
and consignments of bombs and grenades; regi-
mental stretcher-bearers returning for fresh
loads; ration parties carrying up food and water.
There were still communication trenches leading
from the Stonewalls * position to the firing line, but
because these had been and still were made a regu-
lar target by the German guns, had been smashed
and broken in beyond all real semblance of cover
or protection, and brought their users almost with
certainty under the bursting shrapnel or high ex-
plosive with which the trench was plastered, most
of the men going up or coming back from the for-
ward trench, and especially if they were laden
with any burden, preferred to take their chance
TAKING PUNISHMENT 81
and make the quicker and straighter passage over
the open ground.
The daylight was beginning to fade by now, the
earlier because dark clouds had been massing, and
a thin misty drizzle of rain had begun to fall ; but
although it was dusk there was no lack of light in
the fighting zone. From both the opposing
trenches soaring lights hissed upwards with trail-
ing streams of sparks, curved over, burst into
vivid balls of brilliant light, and floated slowly
and slantingly downwards to the ground.
The Stonewalls could see — ^if they cared to look
over their parapet — this constant succession of
leaping, soaring, and sinking lights, the dancing
black shadows they threw, and the winking spurts
of fiery orange flame from the rifle muzzles and
from the bursting grenades, while every now and
again a shell dropped with a blinding flash on or
behind one or other of the opposing parapets.
There were not many of the Stonewalls who cared
to lift their heads long enough to watch the blazing
display and the flickering lights and shadows. The
position of their trench was slightly higher than
the front line held by the Germans, and as a result
there was always a hissing and whizzing of bullets
passing close overhead, a smacking and slapping
82 GRAPES OF WRATH
of others into their parapet and the ground before
it ; to raise a head above the parapet was, as the
men would have said, *^Askin^for it," and none
of them was inclined needlessly to do this. But
the other men who passed to and fro across their
trench, although they no doubt liked their expo-
sure as little as the Stonewalls did, climbed with
apparent or assumed indifference over the para-
pet and hurried stooping across the open to the
next trench, or walked back carefully and deliber-
ately, bearing the stretcher laden with the
wounded, or helping and supporting the casualties
who were still able in any degree to move them-
The Stonewalls were given no indication of the
time they were to remain there, of when or if they
were to be pushed up into the forward trench.
The thin rain grew closer and heavier, a chiU wind
began to blow, setting the men shivering and
stamping their feet in a vain attempt to induce
warmth. Some of them produced food from their
haversacks and ate; almost all of them squatted
with rounded shoulders and stooping heads and
smoked cigarettes with hands curved about them
to hold off the rain, or pipes lit and turned upside
down to keep the tobacco dry. They waited there
TAKING PUNISHMENT 83
for hours, and gradually, although the sounds of
fighting never ceased on their front, the rolling
thunder that had marked the conflict during the
day died down considerably as the night wore on,
until it became no more than a splutter and crackle
of rifle fire, a whirring and clattering outburst
from some distant or near machine gun, the whoop
and rush and jarring burst of an occasional shell
on the British or German lines.
At intervals the fight flamed upward into a re-
newed activity, the rifle fire rose rolling and drum-
ming, the machine guns chattered in a frenzy of
haste ; the reports of the bursting bombs and gre-
nades followed quickly and more quickly upon
each other. Invariably the louder outburst of
noise roused the guns on both sides to renewed
action. The sky on both sides winked and flamed
with flashes that came and went, and lit and dark-
ened across the sky, like the flickering dance of
snmmer lightning. The air above the trenches
shook again to the rush of the shells ; the ground
about and between the front lines blazed with the
flashes of the bursts, was darkened and obscured
by the billowing clouds of smoke and the drifting
haze of their dissolving. Invariably, too, the on-
slaught of the guns, the pattering hail of their
84 GRAPES OF WRATH
shrapnel, the earth-shaking crash of the high
explosives, reduced almost to silence the other
sounds of fighting, drove the riflemen and bomb-
throwers to cover, and so slackened off for a space
the fierceness of the conflict.
To the Stonewalls the night dragged with bitter
and appalling slowness; they were cramped and
nncomf ortable ; they were wet and cold and miser-
able. The sides of the trench, the ground on which
they sat, or lay, or squatted, turned to slimy and
sticky mud, mud that appeared to cling and hold
clammily and unpleasantly to everything about
them, their boots and puttees, the skirts of their
coats, their packs and haversacks, their hands and
rifles and bayonets, and even to their rain-wet
Long before the dawn most of the men were
openly praying that they would soon be pushed
up into the front rank of the fighting, not because
they had any longing or liking for the fight itself,
not that they had — any more than any average
soldier has — a wish to die or to take their risks,
their heavy risks, of death or wounds, but simply
because they were chilled to the bone with inac-
tion, were wholly and utterly and miserably wet
and uncomfortable, were anxious to go on and get
TAKING PUNISHMENT 85
it over, knowing that when they had been in the
front line for a certain time, had been actively
fighting for so long, and lost a percentage of their
number in casualties, they would be relieved by
other regiments, would be withdrawn, and sent
back to the rear. That sending back might mean
no more than a retirement of a mile or two from
the front trench, the occupation of some other
trench or ditch, no less wet and uncomfortable
than the one they were in ; but, on the other hand,
it might mean their going back far enough to
bring them again into touch with the broken vil-
lages in the rear, with houses shattered no doubt
by shell fire but still capable of providing rough
and ready-made shelter from the rain, and, a boon
above all boons, wood for fires, with crackling,
leaping, life-giving flames and warmth, with the
opportunity of boiling mess-tins of water, of heat-
ing tinned rations, and of making scalding hdt tea.
There might be much to go through before such
a heaven could be reached. There were certainly
more long hours, in th« hell of the forward line,
there was black death and burning pain, and limb
and body mutilation for anything up to three-
fourths of their number, to be faced. There were
sleeting rifle bullets, and hailing storms from the
86 GRAPES OF WRATH
machine gons, shattering bombs and grenades,
rending and tearing shrapnel and shell splinters,
the cold-blooded creeping murder of a gas attack
perhaps; the more human heat and stir of a
bayonet charge; but all were willing, nay, more,
all would have welcomed the immediate facing of
the risks and dangers, would have gladly taken the
chance to go on and get it over, and get back again
— such of them as were left — ^to where they could
walk about on firm ground, and stretch their limbs
and bodies to sleep in comparative dryness. But
no order came throughout the night, and they lay
and crouched there with the rain still bjeating
down, with the trench getting wetter and muddier
and slimier about them, with their bodies getting
more numbed, and their clothing more saturated ;
lay there until the cold gray of the dawn began to
creep into the sky, and they roused themselves
stiffly, and with many groans, to meet what the
new day might bring forth to them.
The day promised to open badly for the Stone-
walls. As the light grew, and became suflficiently
strong for the observation of artillery fire, the
guns recommenced a regular bombardment on
both sides. From the first it was plain that the
support trench occupied by the Stonewallp had
TAKING PUNISHMENT 87
been marked down as a target by the German gun-
ners. The first couple of shells dropped on the
ground behind their trench and within fifty yards
of it, sending some shrieking fragments flying over
their heads, spattering them with the mud and
earth ontflung by the explosions. Another and
then another fell, this time in front of their trench,
and then one after another, at regular intervals of
two to three minutes, a heavy high explosive
crashed down within a yard or two of either side
of the trench, breaking down the crumbling sides,
blowing in the tottering parapet, half-burying
some of the men in a tumbling slide of loose, wet
earth and debris ; or falling fairly and squarely in
the trench itself, killing or wounding every man
in the particular section in which it fell, blasting
out in a fountain of flying earth and stones and
mud the whole front and back wall of the trench,
leaving it open and improtected to the searcbing
shrapnel that burst overhead and pelted down in
gusts along the trench's length.
The Stonewalls lay and suffered their cruel
punishment for a couple of hours, and in that time
lost nearly two hundred men, many of them killed,
many more of them so cruelly wounded they might
almost be called better dead; lost their two
88 GRAPES OF WEATH
hundred men without stirring from the trench,
-without being able to lift a finger in their own de-
fense, without even the grim satisfaction of firing
a shot, or throwing a bomb, or doing anything to
take toll from the men who were punishing them
so mercilessly for those long hours.
Larry, Kentucky, and Simson lay still, and
crouched close to the bottom of the trench, saying
little, and that little no more than expressions of
anger, of railing against their inaction, of cursings
at their impotence, of wondering how long they
were to stick there^ of how much longer they could
expect to escape those riving shells, that pounded
up and down along the trench, that sent shiverings
and tremblings through the wet ground under
them, that spat at them time and again with earth
and mud and flying clods and stones. In those two
hours they heard the cries and groans that fol-
lowed so many timfes the rending crash and roar of
the shell's explosion on or about the trench; the
savage whistling rush and crack of the shrapnel
above them, the rip and thud of the bullets across
trench and parapet. They saw many wounded
helped and many more carried out past them to
the communication trench that led back to the rear
and to the dressing-stations. For all through the
TAKING PUNISHMENT 89
two hours, heedless of the storm of high explosive
that shook and battered the trench to pieces, the
stretcher-bearers worked, and picked np the cas-
ualties, and sorted out the dead and the dying
from the wounded, and applied hasty but always
neat bandages and first field-dressings, and
started off those that could walk upon their way,
or laid those who were past walking upon their
stretchers and bore them, staggering and slipping
and stumbling, along the muddy trench into the
way towards the rear.
**I wonder,'' said Larry savagely, **how much
longer we're going to stick here getting pounded
to pieces. There won 't be any of the battalion left
if we're kept here much longer."
^ * The front line there has been sticking longer
than us, boy," said Kentucky, **and I don't sup-
pose they're having any softer time than us."
**I believe it's all this crowd trampin' in an'
out of our trench that's drawin' the fire. They
ought to be stopped," said Billy Simson indig-
nantly. ** Here's some more of 'em now. . . . Hi,
you I Whatjer want to come crawlin' through this
way for! Ain't there any other way but trampin'
in an' out on top of us 'eref "
The couple of mud-bedaubed privates who had
90 GRAPES OF WRATH
sKd down into the trench and were hoisting an
ammnnition-box on to the parapet stopped and
looked down on Billy crouching in the trench bot-
tom. **Go'n put yer 'ead in a bag,*' said one
coarsely. **0f course, if you says so, me lord
dock,'' said the other with heavily sarcastic poUte-
ness, **we'll tell the CO. up front that you objects
to us walkin' in your back door an' out the front
parlor ; an' he must do without &ny more ammuni-
tion 'cos you don't like us passing through this
way without wipin' our feet on the mat."
^*0h, come on an' leave it alone," growled the
first, and heaved himself over the parapet. The
other followed, but paused to look back at Billy.
*^Good job the early bird don't 'appen to be about
this momin'," he remarked loudly, *^or 'e might
catch you," and he and his companion vanished.
*' What's the good of grousing at them, Billy f"
said Larry. *^ They've got to get up somehow."
He was a little inclined to be angry with Billy,
partly because they were all more or less involved
in the foolish complaint, and partly no doubt just
because he was ready to be angry with any one or
**Why do they all come over this bit of trench,
then!" demanded Billy. *^And I'm damned if
TAKING PUNISHMENT 91
'ere ain't more of 'em. Now wot d'you suppose
■he's playin' atf "
** They 're Gmmers," said Larry, *^ laying a tele-
phone wire out, evidently. ' '
A young oflScer, a Second Lieutenant, and two
men crept round the broken comer of the trench.
One of the men had a reel of telephone wire, which
he paid out as he went, while the other man and
the officer hooked it up over projections in the
trench wall or tucked it away along the parts that
offered the most chance of protection. The officer
turned to the three men who crouched in the
trench watching them.
** Isn't there a conununication trench somewhere
along here!" he asked, ^*one leading off to the
right to some broken-down houses!"
**We don't know, sir," said Larry. **We
haven't been further along than this, or any fur-
**The men going up to the front line all say the
communication trenches are too badly smashed,
and under too hot and heavy a fire to be used,"
said Kentucky; **most of them go up and down
across the open from here. ' '
* * No good to me, ' ' said the officer. But he stood
92 GRAPES OF WRATH
up and looked carefully out over the ground in
**No good to me/' he repeated, stepping back
into the trench. **Too many shells and bullets
there for my wire to stand an earthly. It would be
chopped to pieces in no time. ' '
**Look out, sir/' said Larry hurriedly; ** there
comes another one.''
The officer and his two men stooped low in the
trench, and waited until the customary rush had
ended in the customary crash.
**That," said the officer, standing up, ^^was
about a five-pointruine H.E., I reckon. It's mostly
these six- and eight-inch they have be^n dumping
down here all the morning. ' '
He and his men went on busily with their wir-
ing, and before they moved off into the next trav-
erse he turned to give a word of warning to the
infantrymen to be careful of his wire, and to jump
on any one they saw pulling it down or trampling
**Lots of fellows," he said, **seem to think we
run these wires out for our own particular benefit
and amusement, but they howl in a different tune
if they want the support of the guns and we can't
TAKING PUNISHMENT 93
give it them because our wire back to the battery
is broken. ' '
The three regarded the slender, wriggling wire
with a new interest after that, and if the rest of
the trench full of Stonewalls were as zealous in
their protection as they were, there was little fear
of the wire being destroyed, or even misplaced, by
careless hands or feet.
Billy Simson cursed strenuously a pair of blun-
dering stretcher-bearers when one of their elbows
caught the wire and pulled it down. ^* 'Ow dV^r
suppose, '* he demanded, *Hhe Gunners' Forward
OflBcer is goin' to tell 'is guns back there to open
fire, or keep on firin', if yer go breakin' up 'is
blinkin ' wire f ' ' And he crawled up and carefully
returned the wire to its place.
**Look out," he kept saying to every man who
came and went up and down or across the trench.
** That's the Gunners' wire ; don't you git breakin'
it, or they can't call up to git on with the shell-
About two or three hours after dawn the
German bombardment appeared to be slackening
off, but again within less than half an hour it was
renewed with a more intense violence than ever.
The Stonewalls' trench was becoming hopelessly
94 GRAPES OF WEATH
destroyed, and the casualties in the battalion were
mounting at serious speed.
** Hotter than ever, isn't itf said Larry, and
the other two assented.
**We're lucky to 'ave dodged it so far/' said
Billy Simson; ^^but by the number o' casualties
we've seen carted out, the battalion is coppin' it
pretty stiff. If we stop 'ere much longer, there
won't be many of us left to shove into the front
line, when we 're needed. ' '
**D'ye notice," said Kentuc^, **that the rifle
firing and bombing up in front seems to have
eased off a bit, and the guns are doing most of the
*^ Worse luck," said Larry, **I'd sooner have the
bullets than the shells any day."
"Ar'n't you the Stonewalls!" suddenly de-
manded a voice from above them, and the three
looked up to see a couple of men standing on the
rearward edge of the trench.
**Yes, that's right," they answered in the same
breath, and one of the men turned and waved his
hand to the rear.
** Somebody is lookin' for you," he remarked,
jumping and sliding down into the trench. "C
Company o' the Stonewalls, 'e wanted."
TAKING PUNISHMENT 95
^'That's us,'' said Larry, **but if he wants an
officer he must go higher up/'
Another figure appeared on the bank above,
and jumped hastily down into the trench.
** Stonewalls,'' he said. ** Where's *C' — ^why
'ere yer are, chums "
**Pugf" said Larry and Kentucky incredu-
lously. **We thought that — ^why, weren't you
hit!" ** Thought you was 'alf-way to Blighty by
now," said Billy Simson.
**You were hit, after all," said Larry, noticing
the bloodstains and the slit sleeve on Pug's jacket.
** 'It!" said Billy Simson, also staring hard.
*^ Surely they didn't send yer back 'ere after bein'
**Give a bloke 'alf a chaace to git 'is wind,"
said Pug, **an' I'll spin yer the cuffer. But I'm
jist about puffed out runnin' acres t that blinkin'
field, and dodgin' Jack Johnsons. Thought I was
niver goin' to find yer agin ; bin searchin' 'alf over
France since last night, tryin' to 'ook up with yer.
Where 've you bin to, any'owf "
**Bin tol" said Billy Simson, indignantly.
** We've bin now 'ere. We've bin squatting 'ere
freezin' and drownin' to death — ^them that 'aven't
bin wiped out with crumps. ' '
96 GRAPES OF WEATH
**We came straight across from where we left
you to the old German trench, ' ^ said Larry, * * then
up a communication trench to here, and, as Billy
says, weVe stuck here ever since."
**An' 'ere," said Pug, "IVe bin trampin' miles
lookin' for yer, and every man I asked w'ere the
Stonewalls was told me a new plice."
**But what happened, Pug?" said Kentucky.
**Tou were wounded, we see. that; but why ar'n't
you back in the dressing station?"
"Well," said Pug, hesitatingly, **w'en I got this
puncture, I dropped back in the trench. I didn't
know w 'ether it was bad or not, but one of our
stretcher-bearers showed me the way back to the
fust aid post. They tied me up there, and told me
the wound wasn't nothia' worth worritin' about,
and after a few days at the Base I'd be back to the
battalion as good as ever ; so I 'ad a walk round
outside, waitin' till the ambulance come that they
said would cart me back to the 'orspital train, and
w'en nobody was lookin' I jist come away, and
found my way back to w'ere yer lef ' me. Then I
chased round, as I've told yer, till I found yer
'ere. ' '
* ' Good man, ' ' said Larry, and Kentucky nodded
TAKING PUNISHMENT 97
Billy Simson didn't look on it in the same light.
**You 'ad a chance to go back, and you come on
up 'ere agin, ' ' he said, staring hard at Pug. * * For
God's sake, what for?"
"Well, yer see," said Pug, **all the time I've bin
out 'ere I've never 'ad a chance to see the inside of
a German trench; an' now there was a fust class
chance to git into one, an' a chance maybe of
pickin' up a 'elmet for a soo-veneer, I thought I'd
be a fool not to take it. You 'aven't none of yer
found a 'elmet yet, 'ave yer?" and he looked in-
** 'Elmet," said Billy Simson disgustedly.
**Blowed if yer catch me comin' back 'ere for a
bloomin' 'undred 'elmets. If I'd bin you, I'd a bin
snug in a 'ospital drinkin' beef tea, an' smoMn' a
fag by now. ' '
*'Ah!" said Pug profoundly. **But w'at good
was a week at the Base to me?"
**You would 'ave missed the rest of this rotten
show, any'ow," said Billy.
*' That's right," assented Pug, **and I might
'ave missed my chance to pick up a 'elmet.* I want
a blinkin' 'elmet — see — ^and wot's more, I'm goin'
to git one."
BUND MAN^S BUPP
The Sergeant stumbled round the comer of the
traverse and told the four men there that the
battalion was moving along the trench to the right,
and to **get on and follow the next file/' They
rose stiffly, aching in every joint, from their
cramped positions, and plodded and stumbled
round the corner and along the trench. They were
all a good deal amazed to see the chaotic state to
which it had been reduced by the shell fire, and
not only could they understand plainly now why
so many casualties had been borne past them, but
found it difficult to understand why the number
had not been greater.
**By the state of this trench,'^ said Larry,
** you'd have thought a battalion of mice could
hardly have helped being blotted ouf
*'It licks me,'' agreed Kentucky; '*the whole
trench seems gone to smash; but I'm afraid there
must have been more casualties than came past
BLIND MAN« BUFF 99
*'Look out!'* warned Billy Simson, " 'ere's
another,*^ and the four halted and crouched again
until the shell, which from the volume of sound of
its coming they knew would fall near, burst in the
usual thunder-clap of noise and flying debris of
mud and earth. Then they rose again and moved
on, and presently came to a dividing of the ways,
and a sentry posted there to warn them to turn off
to the left. They scrambled and floundered
breathlessly along it, over portions that were
choked almost to the top by fallen earth arid rub-
ble, across other parts which were no more than a
shallow gutter with deep shell craters blasted out
of it and the ground about it. In many of these
destroyed portions it was almost impossible, stoop
and crouch and crawl as they would and as they
did, to avoid coming into view of some part of the
ground still held by the Germans, but either be-
cause the German guns were busy elsewhere, or
because the whole ground was more or less veiled
by the haze of smoke that drifted over it and by
the thin drizzle of rain that continued to f aU, the
battalion escaped any concerted effort of the Ger-
man guns to catch them in their scanty cover. But
there were still sufficient casual shells, and more
than sufficient bullets about, to make the passage
100 GRAPES OF WEATH
of the broken trench an uncomfortable and dan-
gerous one, and they did not know whether to be
relieved or afraid when they came to a spot where
an officer halted them in company with about a
dozen other men, and bade them wait there until
he gave the word, when they were to jump from
the trench and run straight aeross the open to the
right, about a hundred yards over to where they
would find another trench, better than the one they
were now occupying, then to '*get down into it as
quick as you can, and keep along to the leff
They waited there until a further batch of men
were collected, and then the officer warned them to
get ready for a quick run,
**You'll see some broken-down houses over
there, ^ ' he said ; * * steer for them ; the trench runs
across this side of them, and you can't miss it.
It's the first trench you meet; drop into it, and,
remember, turn down to the lef i Now — ^no, wait
They waited until another dropping shell had
burst, and then at the quick command of the officer
jumped out and raa hard in the direction of the
broken walls they could just see. Most of the men
ran straight without looking left or right, but
Kentucky as he went glanced repeatedly to his
BLIND MAN^S BUFF 101
left, towards where the German .lines were. He
was surprised to find that they were evidently a
good way off, very much further off, in fact, than
he had expected. He had thought the last com-
munication trench up which they moved must have
been bringing them very close to our forward line,
but here from where he ran he could see for a
clear two or three hundred yards to the first break
of a trench parapet; knew that this must be in
British hands, and that the German trench must
lie beyond it again. He concluded that the line
of captured ground must have curved forward
from that. part behind which they had spent the
night, figured to himself that the cottages towards
which they ran must be in our hands, and that the
progress of the attack along there had pushed
further home than they had known or expected.
He thought out all these things with a sort of
secondary mind and consciousness. Certainly his
first thoughts were very keenly on the path he had
to pick over the wet ground past the honeycomb
of old and new shell holes, over aad through some
fragments of rusty barbed wire that still clung to
their broken or uptom stakes, and his eye looked
anxiously for the trench toward which they were
running, and in which they would find shelter from
102 GRAPES OF WEATH
the bullets that hissed and whisked past, or
smacked noisily into the wet ground.
There was very little parapet to the trench, and
the runners were upon it almost before they saw
it. Billy Simson and Larry reached it first, with
Pug and Kentucky dose upon their heels. They
wasted no time in leaping to cover, for just as they
did so there came the rapid rush-rush, hang-hang
of a couple of Pip-Squeak shells. The four tum-
bled into the trench on the instant the shells burst,
but quick as they were, the shells were quicker.
They heard the whistle and thump of flying frag-
ments about them, and Billy Simson yelped as he
fell, rolled over, and sat up with his hand reaching
over and clutching at the back of his shoulder, his
face contorted by pain.
*'What is it, Billy? '^ said Larry quickly.
**Did it get you, son?*' said Kentucky.
**TheyVe got me,*' gasped Billy. '*My Christ,
it do 'urt."
''Lemme look," said Pug quickly. ** Let's 'ave
a field-dressin', one o' yer."
Simson 's shoulder was already crimsoning, and
the blood ran and dripped fast from it. Pug
slipped out a ktiife, and with a couple of slashes
split the torn jacket and shirt down and across.
BLIND MAN^S BUFF 103
*'I don't think it's a bad 'un," he said. **Don't
seem to go deep, and it's well up on the shoulder
anyway. ' '
*'It's bad enough," said Billy, '*by the way it
Kentucky also examined the wound closely.
* * I 'm sure Pug 's right, ' ' he said. * * It isn 't any-
ways dangerous, Billy."
Billy looked up suddenly. *'It's a Blighty one,
isn't it?" he said anxiously.
**0h, yes," said Kentucky; *'a Blighty one,
**6ood enough," said Billy Simson. ** If it's a
Blighty one I've got plenty. I'm not like you,
Pug; I'm not thirstin' enough for Germ 'elmets to
go lookin' any further for 'em."
One of the sergeants came pushing along the
trench, urging the men to get a move on and clear
out before the next lot ran across the open for the
*^Man wounded," he said, when they told him of
Billy Simson. *'You, Simson! Well, you must
wait 'ere, and I'll send a stretcher-bearer back, if
ye 're not able to foot it on your own. ' '
**I don't feel much up to footin' it," said Billy
104 GRAPES OF WRATH
Simeon. **I ihiiik 1^11 stick here xmtil somebody
comes to give me a hand/'
So the matter was decided, and the rest pushed
along the narrow trench, leaving Simson squatted
in one of the bays cut out of the walL The others
moved slowly along to where their trench opened
into another running across it, turned down this,
and went wandering along its twisting, curving
loops until they had completely lost all sense of
The guns on both sides were maintaining a con-
stant cannonade, and the air overhead shook con-
tinually to the rumble and wail and howl of the
passing shells. But although it was difficult to
keep a sense of direction, there was one thing
always which told them how they moved — ^the
rattle of rifle fire, the rapid rat-tat-tatting of the
machine guns and sharp explosions of bombs and
grenades. These sounds, as they all well knew,
came from the fighting front, from the most ad-
vanced line where our men still strove to push
forward, and the enemy stood to stay them, or to
press them back.
The sound kept growing ominously louder and
nearer the further the Stonewalls pushed on along
their narrow trench, and now they could hear, even
BLIND MAN'S BUFF 105
above the uproar of the guns and of the firing
lines, the sharp hiss and zipp of the bullets pass-
ing close above the trench, the hard smacks and
cracks with which they struck the parapet or the
ground about it. The trench in which they moved
was narrow, deep, and steep-sided. It was there-
fore safe from everything except the direct over-
head burst of high-explosive shrapnel, and of these
there were, for the moment, few or none ; so that
when the men were halted and kept waiting for
half an hour they could see nothing except the
narrow strip of sky above the lips of the trench,
but could at least congratulate themselves that
they were put of the inferno in which they had
spent the night and the early part of the morning.
It was still raining, a thin, cold, drizzling rain,
which collected in the trench bottom and turned
the path into gluey mud, trickled down the walls
and saturated them to a sticky clay which daubed
the shoulders, the elbows, the hips, and haversacks
of the men as they pushed along, coated them with
a layer of clinging, slimy wetness, clammy to the
touch, and striking them through and through with
shivering chills. When they halted most of the
men squatted down in the bottom of the trench,
sitting on their heels and leaning their backs
106 GRAPES OF WEATH
against the walls, and waited there, listening to
the near-by uproar of the conflict, speculating on
how little or how long a time it would be before
they were into it actively ; discussing and guessing
at the progress the attack had made, and what
ground had been taken, and held or lost. Here
and there a man spoke of this point or that which
the attack had reached, of some village or hill, or
trench, which he heard had been taken. Usually
the information had been gleaned from wounded
men, from the stretcher-bearers and ammunition
carriers with whom the Stonewalls had spoken, as
they crossed and recrossed their trench early that
In the trench they now occupied they gleaned
no further news, because none of these wayfarers
to and from the firing-line passed their way.
^'Our front line cau^t be getting pushed very
hard,^' suggested Larry; "because if they were,
they'd have shoved us in support before now.''
"It looks to me," said Kentucky, "that they
have slid us off quite a piece to the right of where
we were meant to go. What lot of ours do you
suppose is in these trenches in front of us now?"
But of that nobody had any definite opinion,
although several made guesses, based on the
BLIND MAN'S BUFF 107
vaguest rumors, and knowledge of this regiment
or that which had gone up ahead of them.
'* 'Ark at the Archies/^ said Pug suddenly.
^^TheyVe 'avin^ a busy season on somebody.
D^yer think they're ours, or the 'Uns'f
^*I donH know,'' said Kentucky, ^*but I fancy
I hear the 'planes they're shooting at."
He was right, and presently they all heard the
faint but penetrating whirr of an aeroplane 's en-
gines, even above the louder and deeper note of
the cannonade and rifle fire.
' * There she is, ' ' said Larry. ^ * Can you see the
marks on her?"
''It's ours," said Kentucky. '*I see the rings
Although the aeroplane was at a good height,
there were several who could distinguish the
bull 's-eye target pattern of the red, white and blue
circles painted on the wings and marking the aero-
plane as British. For some time it pursued a
course roughly parallel to the line of the trench, so
that the Stonewalls, craning their heads back,
could follow its progress along the sky, and the
trailing wake of puflSng smoke from the shrapnel
that followed it. They lost sight of it presently
until it curved back into the range of their vision,
108 GEAPES OF WRATH
and came sailing swiftly over them again. Then
another 'plane shot into view above them, steering
straight for the first, and with a buzz of excited
comment the Stonewalls proclaimed it a Hnn and
speculated keenly on the chances of a * ^ scrap. ' '
There was a * * scrap, ' ' and in its opening phases
the Stonewalls had an excellent view of the two
machines circling, swooping, soaring, and diving
in graceful, bird-like curves. The ** Archies''
ceased on both sides to fling their shrapnel at the
airy opponents, because with their swift dartings
to and fro, and still more because of their proxim-
ity to one another, the Archie gunners were just as
liable to wing their own 'plane and bring it down,
as they were to hit the enemy one. For two or
three minutes the Stonewalls watched with the
wildest excitement and keenest interest the ma-
neuvering of the two machines. Half a dozen times
a gasp or a groan, or a chorus of comment ^ * He 's
hit," and "He's downed," and ''He's got .him,"
followed some movement, some daring plunge or
nose dive of one or other of the ' machines ; but
always before the exclamations had finished the
supposed injured one had righted itself, swooped
and soared upward again, and swung circling into
BLIND MAN^S BUFF 109
Once or twice the watchers thought they could
catch the faint far-off rattle of the aeroplanes'
machine guns, although amongst the other sounds
of battle it was difficult to say with any certainty
that these shots were fired in the air; but just
when the interest and excitement were at their
highest, a sharp order was passed along the trench
for every man to keep his face down, on no ac-
count to look upwards out of the trench, and offi-
cers and sergeants, very reluctantly setting the
good example by stooping their own heads, pushed
along the trench to see that the men also obeyed
^'Blinkin' sell, I calls it,'* exclaimed Pug dis-
gustedly. **The fust decent scrap between two
'planes I've ever 'ad a chance to see, and 'ere I'm
not allowed to look at it."
'*You wait until you get 'ome, and see it on the
pictures," said the Sergeant, who stood near them.
**It'll be a sight safer there. If you don't know
you ought to, that a trench full of white faces
lookin' up at a 'plane, is as good as sending a
postcard to their spotter upstairs sayin' the trench
is occupied in force; and I don't suppose," he con-
cluded, **you're any more anxious than I am for
110 GRAPES OF WRATH
that 'Un to be sendin' a wireless to his guns, and
'avin' this trench strafed like the last one was."
**From what I can see of it," said Pug, **that
*Un up there was ^avin' Is *ands too full to worrit
about wot was goin^ on down ^ere."
**Well, anyhow," said the Sergeant, **you
needn't keep yer eyes down looMn' for sixpences
any longer. Both the ^planes is out of sight."
**Well, I^m blowed," said Pug, *4f that's not a
sickener. 'Ere we 'as a fust-class fight, and us
in the front seats for seein' it, and they goes and
shifts off so we don't even know which side won."
And they never did. A minute later the anti-
aircraft guns broke out into fire again, their
peculiar singing reports easily distinguishable
from the other gun fire, even as the distant reports
of their shrapnel bursts in the air were distin-
guishable from the other sounds of many bursting
shells near the ground. But which of the * ^ Archi-
balds ' ' were firing they did not know. They could
only guess that one of the machines had been shot
down, and that the anti-aircraft guns of the oppos-
ing side were endeavoring to bring down the vic-
tor — ^but which was the victor, and whether he
escaped or not, was never known to the Stone-
BLIND MAN'S BUFF 111
"Bloomin' Blind-Man 's-Buff, I calls it," grum-
bled Pug. "Gropin* ronnd after 'Uns you can't
see, an' g^ttin' poked in the ribs without seein'
one — ^like BiUy was, ' '
OVEB THE TOP
The long-delayed and long-expected crisis in the
affairs of the Stonewalls came at last about mid-
day, and they were moved up into the front line,
into the battered trench held by the remains of an-
This line ran curving and zigzagging some fifty
to a hundred yards beyond the shattered and shell-
smitten fragments of a group of houses which
stood on the grass- and weed-grown remains of a
road. What was now the British front line of
trench had been at one time a German communica-
tion trench in part of its length, and apparently
some sort of support trench in another part. But
throughout its whole length it had been so battered
and wrecked, rent and riven asunder by shell fire,
by light and heavy bombs of every sort and de-
scription, that it was all of much the same pattern
— a comparatively wide ditch, filled up and choked
to half its depth in some places by fallen walls
OVEB THE TOP 113
and scattered sandbags, in other parts no more
than a line of big and little shell-craters linked up
by a shallow ditch, with a tangle of barbed wire
flung out in coils and loops in front of the trench,
with here and there a few strands run out and
staked down during the night.
The face of the trench was no longer a perpen-
dicular wall with a proper fire step, as all regu-
larly constructed trenches are made when possi-
ble ; the walls had crumbled down under the explo-
sions of shell and bomb, and although some at-
tempt had been made to improve the defenses,
actually these improvements had been of the
slightest description, and in many cases were de-
stroyed again as fast as they were made; so for
the most part the men of the battalion holding the
trench picked little angles and corners individually
for themselves, did their best to pile sandbags for
head cover, lay sprawling on or against the slop-
ing trench wall, and fired over the parapet.
At the point occupied by the Stonewalls the
opposing lines were too far apart for the throwing
of hand grenades, but the line was still suffering
a fairly heavy and uncomfortably accurate artil-
lery bombardment. The trench was strewn along
its length with a debris of torn sandbags, of packs
114 GBAPES OF WEATH
and equipments stripped from the wounded, of
rifles and bayonets, mess-tins, and trenching tools,
and caps and boots and water-bottles. Collected
here and there in odd comers were many dead,
because scattered along the whole length of line
there were still many wounded, and until these
had been safely removed there could, of course, be
no time or consideration spared for attention to
The Stonewalls passed in single file along the
broken trench behind the men who stUl held the
position aud lay and fired over their parapet.
There were many remarks from these men, caus-
tic inquiries as to where the Stonewalls had been,
and why they had taken so long to come up ; ex-
pressions of relief that they had come ; inquiries
as to whether there was to be another attack, or
whether they were to be relieved by the Stone-
walls, and allowed to go back. The Stonewalls, of
course, could give no information as to what would
happen, because of that they themselves had not
the faintest idea. They were pushed along the
trench and halted in a much closer and stronger
line than the widely spaced men of the defending
force which had held it.
Larry remarked on this to Pug and Kentucky,
OVEB THE TOP 115
when at last the little group of which they were a
part was told by their Sergeant to halt.
**I suppose,** said Kentucky, **we're thicker
along this line because there's more of us.
Whether the same reason will hold good by this
time to-morrow is another proposition.'*
**I*m goin* to *ave a peep out,** said Pug, and
scrambled up the sloping face of the trench to
beside a man lying there.
** Hello, chum!** said this man, turning his head
to look at Pug. ** Welcome to our *ome, as the
text says, and you'll be a bloomin* sight more wel-
come if you're takin* over, and lettin* us go back.
I've 'ad quite enough of this picnic for one turn.'*
** *As it bin pretty *ot here!** asked Pug.
The man slid his rifle-barrel over a sandbag,
raised his head and took hasty aim, fired, and
ducked quickly down again. * * 'Ot ! * * he repeated.
**I tell yer *ell's a bloomin' ice cream barrow com-
pared to wot this trench 'as been since we come
in it. 'Ot? Myblanky oath!"
Pug raised his head cautiously, and peered out
over the parapet.
**I 8 'pose that's their trench acrost there," he
said doubtfully, **but it's a rummy lookin' mix!
up. Wot range are yer shootin' at!"
116 GRAPES OF WEATH
** Pretty well point blank/' said the private.
''It's about 200 to 250 they tell me/'
* * 'Oo 's trench is that along there to the left 1 ' '
asked Pug. *'It seems to run both ways."
*'I'm not sure," said the other man, ''but I
expect it's an old communication trench. This
bit opposite us they reckon is a kind of redoubt ;
you'll notice it sticks out to a point that their
trenches slope back from on both sides. ' '
"I notice there's a 'eap of wire all round it,"
said Pug, and bobbed his head down hastily at the
whizz of a couple of bullets. "And that's blinkin'
well enough to notice, ' ' he continued, ' ' until I 'as
to look out an' notice some more whether I likes
it or not."
He slipped down again into the tre^jjjS bottom,
and described such of the situation as he had seen,
as well as he could. He found the others discuss-
ing a new rumor, which had just arrived by way of
the Sergeant. The tale ran that they were to
attack the trenches opposite ; that there was to be
an intense artillery bombardment first, that the
assault was to be launched after an hour or two
"I 'ear there's a battalion of the Jocks joined
up to our left in this trench," said the Sergeant,
OVER THE TOP 117
**and there's some Fusilier crowd packin' in on
**That looks like business/' said Larry; **but is
it true, do you think, Sergeant? Where did you
get it from!"
** There's a 'tiUery forward oflSoer a little piece
along the trench there, and I was 'avin' a chat
with 'is signaler. They told me about the attack,
and told me their Battery was goin' to cut the
wire out in front of us. ' '
Kentucky, who was always full of curiosity and
interest in unusual proceedings, decided to go
along and see the Forward Officer at work. He
told the others he would be back in a few minutes,
and, scrambling along the trench, found the Artil-
lery Subaltern and two signalers. The signalers
had a portable telephone connected up with the
trailing wire, and over this the Subaltern was
talking when Kentucky arrived. He handed the
receiver to one of his signalers, and crossing the
trench took up a position where by raising his
head he could see over the parapet.
^^Nxmiber One gun, fire," he said, and the sig-
naler repeated the words over the telephone, and
a moment later called sharply : * * No. 1 fired, sir. ' '
Kentucky waited expectantly with his eye on
118 GRAPES OF WEATH
the Forward OflSeer, waited so many long seconds
for any sound of the arriving sheU or any sign of
the Officer's movement that he was beginning to
think he had misunderstood the method by which
the game was played; but at that moment he
heard a sudden and savage rush of air close over-
head, saw the Forward Officer straighten up and
stare anxiously out over the parapet, heard tiie
sharp crash of the bursting shell out in front.
The Officer stooped his head again and called
something about dropping twenty-five and repeat-
ing. The signaler gave his message word for
word over the 'phone, and a minute later reported
again: **No. 1 fired, sir.''
Kentucky, not knowing the technicalities of gun-
ners' lingo, was unable to follow the meaning of
the orders as they were passed back from the of-
ficer to the signaler, from the signaler to the
Battery. There was talk of adding and dropping,
of so many minutes right or left, of lengthening
and shortening, and of ** correctors " ; but al-
though he could not understand all this, the mes-
sage was clear enough when the officer remarked
** Target No. 1; register that," and proceeded
to call for No. 2 gun, and to repeat the compli-
OVER THE TOP 119
cated directions of ranges and deflection. Pres-
ently No. 2 found its target also, and the For-
ward Officer went on with three and the remain-
ing guns in turn. For the first few shots from
each he stood up to look over the parapet, but
after that viewed the proceedings through a peri-
Kentucky, establishing himself near the sig-
naler, who was for the moment disengaged, talked
with him, and acquired some of the simpler mys-
teries of registering a target, and of wire cut-
ting. * * He stands up at first, * ' explained the sig-
naler, in answer to an inquiry, ^'because he pitches
the first shell well over to be on the safe side.
He has to catch the burst as soon as it goes, and
he mightn't have his periscope aimed at the right
spot. After he corrects the lay, and knows just
where the round is going to land, he can keep
his periscope looking there and waiting for it.
It's not such a risky game then, but we gets a
heap of F.0.0. 's oasualtied doing those first peeps
over the parapet."
After the Forward Officer had got all his guns
correctly laid, the Battery opened a rapid and
sustained fire, and the shells, pouring in a rushing
stream so close over the trench that the wind of
120 GBAPES OF WRATH
their passing could be felt, burst in a running
series of reports out in front.
Kentucky made his way back to his own por-
tion of the trench, and borrowing a pocket look-
ing-glass periscope, clipped it to his bayonet and
watched for some time with absorbed interest the
tongues of flame that licked out from the burst-
ing shells, and the pu£Sng clouds of smoke that
rolled along the ground in front of the German
parapet. The destruction of the wire was plain ^
to see, and easy to watch. The shells burst one
after another over and amongst it, and against the
background of smoke that drifted over the ground
the tangle of wire stood up clearly, and could be
seen dissolving and vanishing under the streams
of shrapnel bullets. As time passed the thick
hedge of wire that had been there at first was
broken down and torn away ; the stakes, that held
it were knocked down or splintered to pieces or
torn up and flung whirling from the shell bursts.
Other batteries had come into play along the same
stretch of front, and were hard at work destroy-
ing in the same fashion the obstacle to the ad-
vance of the infantry. The meaning of the wire
cutting must have been perfectly plain to the Ger-
mans ; clearly it signified an attack ; clearly that
OVER THE TOP 121
signified the forward trenches being filled with
a strong atta<^ng force; and clearly again that
meant a good target for the German gons, a tar-
get upon which they proceeded to play with sav-
The forward and support Unes were subjected
to a tornado of high explosive and shrapnel fire,
and again the Stonewalls were driven to crouch-
ing in their trenph while the big shells pounded
down, round, and over and amongst thenu They
vere all very sick of these repeated series of
hammerings from the German guns, and Pug
voiced the idea of a good many, when at the end
of a couple of hours the message came along that
they were to attack with the bayonet in fifteen
**I don't 8 'pose the attack will be any picnic,"
he said, **but blow me if I wouldn't rather be up
there with a chance of gettin' my own back, than
stickin' in this stinkin' trench and gettin' blown
to sausage meat without a chance of crookin' my
finger to save myself."
For two hours past the British guns had been
giving as good as they were getting, and a little
bit better to boot; but now for the fifteen min-
utes previous to the assault their fire worked up
122 GRAPES OF WEATH
to a rate and intensity that must have been posi-
tively appalling to the German defenders of the
ground opposite, and especially of the point which
was supposed to be a redoubt. The air shook to
the rumble and yell and roar of the heavy shells,
vibrated to the quicker and closer rush of the
field guns' shrapnel. The artillery fire for the
time being dominated the field, and brought the
rifle fire from the opposing trenches practically
to silence, so that it was possible with some de-
gree of safety for the Stonewalls to look over their
parapet and watch with a mixture of awe and de-
light tiie spectacle of leaping whirlwinds of fire
and billowing smoke, the spouting debris that
splashed upwards, through them ; to listen to the
deep rolling detonations and shattering boom of
the heavy shells that poured without ceasing on
the trenches in front of them.
**If there's any bloomin' Germans left on that
ground,'' said Pug cheerfully, *'I'd like to know
'ow they do it. Seems to me a perishin' black-
beetle in a 'ole could not 'ave come through that
shell fire if 'e 'ad as many lives as a cat."
It almost looked as if he was right, and that
the defense had been obliterated by the artillery
preparation, for when the order came along and
OVER THE TOP 123
the British Infantry began to scramble hurriedly
over the parapet, to make their way out through
the wire, and to form up quickly and roughly on
the open ground beyond it, hardly a shot was fired
at them, and there was no sound or sign of life
in the German trenches except the whirling smoke
clouds starred with quick flashes of fire from the
shells that still streamed overhead and battered
and hammered down on the opposite lines.
The infantry lay down in the wet grass and
mud for another two or three minutes, and then,
suddenly and simultaneously, as if all the guns
had worked together on the pulling of a string,
the shells, without ceasing for an instant to roar
past overhead, ceased to flame and crash on the
forward lines, but began to pound down in a belt
of smoke and fire some hundreds of yards be-
yond.. Along the length of the British line whistle
after whistle trilled and shrieked; a few figures
could be seen leaping to their feet and beginning
to run forward; and then with a heave and a
jumble of bobbing heads and shoulders the whole
line rose and swung forward in a long, uneven,
but almoiSt solid wave. At the same instant the
German trenches came to life, a ragged volley
of rifle fire crackled out, grew closer and quicker.
124 GBAPES OF WBATH
swelled into one tnmnltnons roll with the machine
guns hanunering and rapping and clattering
sharply and distinctly through the uproar. About
the ears of the running infantry could be heard
the sharp hiss and zipp and whistle and whine
of passing bullets; from the ground amongst
their feet came the cracking and snapping of bul-
lets striking and the spurts of mud thrown up by
them! At first these sounds were insignificaut,
and hardly noticed in the greater and more ter-
rifying clamor of the guns' reports, the shriek
and whoop of the passing shells, the crashing
bursts of their explosions. But the meaning and
significauce of the hissing buUet sounds were
made swiftly plain as the rifle and machine-gun
fire grew, and the riflemen and machine gunners
steadied to their aim and task. The buUet storm
swept down on the chargiug Une, and the Une
withered and melted and shredded away under
it. It still advanced steadily, but the ground be-
hind it was dotted thicker and closer and more
and more quickly with the bodies of men who fell
and lay still, or crawled back towards their para-
pet or to the shelter of the nearest shell crater.
The line went on, but half-way across the open
ground it began to show ragged and uneven with
OVER THE TOP 125
great gaps sliced out of it at intervals. The wet
ground was heavy going, and the fierceness of the
fire and the numbers struck down by it began to
make it look a doubtful question whether a suf-
ficient weight of men could reach their goal to
carry the charge home with any effect. From
one cause or another the pace slowed sensibly,
although the men themselves were probably un-
aware of the slowing.
Kentucky, Larry, and Pug kept throughout
within arm's length of one another. They had set
out under the same bargain to keep close and help
one another if need arose ; but Kentucky at least
confesses that any thoughts of a bargain, any
memory of an arranged program, had completely
left him, and very probably his thoughts ran in
much the same direction as three-fourths of the
charging line. His whole mind, without any con-
scious effort of reasoning, was centered on get-
ting over the open as quickly as possible, of com-
ing to hand grips with the Germans, of getting
down into their trench out of reach of the sleet-
ing bullets that swept the open. He arrived at
the conclusion that in the open he was no more
than a mere helpless running target for shells and
bullets ; that once in the German trench he would
126 GRAPES OF WRATH
be out of reach of these ; that if the trench were
held and it came to hand-to-hand fighting, at least
he would stand an equal chance, and at least his
hand could guard his head. How many men he
might have to meet, what odds would be against
him, whether the attackers would be thinned out
to a hopeless outnumbering, he hardly troubled
to think. That need could be met as it arose, and
in the meantime the first and more imperative
need was to get across the open, to escape the
bullets that pelted about them. He ran on quite
unconscious of whether the rest of the line was
still advancing, or whether it had been extermi-
nated. Arrived at the wrecked entanglements of
wire he did look round, to find Larry and Pug
close beside him, and all three plunged into the
remains of the entanglement almost side by side,
and began to kick and tear a way over and
through the remaining strands and the little
chopped fragments that strewed the ground.
Kentucky was suddenly aware of a machine-gun
embrasure almost in front of them, placed in an
angle of the trench so as to sweep the open ground
in enfilade. From the blackness of the embrasure
mouth flashed a spitting stream of fire, and it
came to him with a jerk that on the path he was
OVER THE TOP 127
taking he would have to cross that stream, that
the bullets pouring from it must inevitably cut
down his two companions and himself. He turned
and shouted hoarsely at them, swerved to one
side, and slanted in to the trench so as to escape
the streaming fire ; but, looking round, he saw that
the other two had not heard or heeded him, that
they were still plowing straight on through the
broken wires, that another few paces must bring
them directly in the path of the bullets' sweep.
He yelled again hoarsely, but realized as he did
so that his voice was lost and drowned in the
clamor of the battle. But at that instant — and
this was the first instant that he became aware
of others beside the three of them having come
so far — a man plunged past him, halted abruptly,
and hurled something straight at the black hole
of the embrasure. The bomb went true to its
mark, the embrasure flamed out a broad gush of
fire, a loud report boomed thunderously and hol-
lowly from it — ^and the spitting fire stream
Kentucky ran on, leaped at the low parapet,
scrambled on top of it, swung the point of his
bayonet down, and poised himself for the leap.
Below him he saw three faces staring upward,
128 GRAPES OF WEATH
three rifle muzzles swing towards him and hai^g,
as it seemed, for an eternity pointed straight at
his f aoe.
His mind was so full of that overpowering
thought it had carried all the way across the open,
the desperate desire to get down into the trench,
that, confronted by the rifle muzzles and the
urgent need to do something to escape them, he
could not for the moment readjust his thoughts or
rearrange his actions. The instant *s hesitation
might easily have been fatal, and it is probable he
owed his life to another man who at that moment
leaped on the broken parapet and jostled him
roughly just as two of the rifles below flamed and
banged. As he half reeled aside from that jolt-
ing elbow he felt a puff of wind in his face, was
conscious of a tremendous blow and violent up-
ward leaping sensation somewhere about his head,
a rush of cold air on his scalp. His first foolish
thought was that the top of his head had been
blown away, and he half dropped to his knees,
clutching with one hand at his bare head, from
which the shot had whirled his helmet. And as he
dropped he saw beside him on the parapet the
man who had jostled him, saw the swift down-
ward fling of his hand as he hurled something into
OVER THE TOP 129
the trench and instantly flung himself to ground.
Kentucky realized what the bomber was doing just
in time to duck backwards. A yell from the trench
below was cut short by a crashing report, a spout
of flame and smoke shot up, and the parapet trem-
bled and shuddered. The bomber leaped to his feet
and without a word to Kentucky leaped across
the trench and ran along its further side, swing-
ing another bomb by its stick-handle. He carried
a lot more of these hanging and dangling about
his body. They jerked as he ran, and it flashed
across Kentucky's mind to wonder if there was
no possibility of two of them by some mischance
striking and detonating one another, or the safety
pins jolting out, when he saw the man crumple
suddenly and fall sprawling and lie still where he
fell. Reminded abruptly of his exposed position
and of those significant whiskings and swishings
through the air about him, Kentucky jumped to
his feet, glanced over into the trench, and jumped
down into it. At the moment he could see no other
British soldier to either side of him, but in the
trench bottom lay the three bodies of the men
killed by the bomb. A sudden wild and nervous
doubt shot into his mind — could he be the only
man who had safely reached the trench? But on
130 GRAPES OF WEATH
the same instant he heard cries, the rush of feet,
and two or three men leaped over and down into
the trench beside him, and he caught a glimpse of
others doing the same further along.
**Seen any of 'em?^^ gasped one of the new-
comers, and without waiting an answer, **Come
along, men; work along the trench and look out
Kentucky recognized them as men of another
company of the Stonewalls, saw that they, too,
were loaded with bombs, and because he was not
at all sure what he ought to do himself, he fol-
lowed them along the trench. The bombers
stopped at the dark entrance to a dug-out, and the
officer leading them halted and shouted down it. In
reply a rifle banged and a bullet hissed out past
the officer's head. The men swore, stepped hur-
riedly aside, and one of them swung forward a
bomb with long cloth streamers dangling from it.
**Not that," said the officer quickly. **It'll ex-
plode on the stairs. Give 'em two or three Mills '
grenades." The men pulled the pins from the
grenades and flung them down the stairway and
the rifle banged angrily again. ** That's about
your last shot," said one of the men grimly, and
next instant a hollow triple report boomed out
OVER THE TOP 131
from deep below. **Eoll another couple down to
make sure/' said the officer, **and come along.''
Kentucky remembered the episode of the double
entrance to the dug-out in the other trench.
** There may be another stair entrance further
along," he said quickly. **Come on," said the
officer abruptly, **we'll see. You'd ii^tter come
with us and have your bayonet ready. I've lost
my bayonet men." He led the way himself with
a long ^Hrench dagger" in his hand — a murder-
ous looking long knife with rings set along the
haft for his fingers to thrust through and grip.
Kentucky heard a shout of * * C Company. Bally
along here, C."
''Td better go, hadn't I?" he asked. ^^I'm C,
and they're shouting for C."
^* All right," said the officer, **push off. Pick
t*p that rifle, one of you. It's a German, but it'll
do for bayonet work if we need it."
Kentucky had no idea where **C" Company
was calling from, and down in the trench he could
see nothing. For a moment he was half inclined
to stay where he was with the others, but the
shout came again, **C Company. Along here, C."
He scrambled up the broken rear wall of the
trench, saw a group of men gathering along to
132 GEAPES OF WEATH
the right, heard another call from them, and
climbed out to run stooping across and join thenu
*^ Hello, Kentucky,*' he heard, ** where you bint
Thought you was a wash-out.''
**I'm all hunkadory. Pug," he answered joy-
fully. **I missed you coming across just after
that bomber slung one in on the machine gun.
Lucky thing for you he did, too."
**Hey?" said Pug vaguely, ^*wot bomber, an'
wot machine gunt"
**Well, I didn't think you could have missed
seeing that," said Kentucky in astonishment.
**You and Larry were running right across its
muzzle. But where 's Larry t"
**Dunno," said Pug anxiously. '^I thought 'im
an' you would be together. He was with me not
more'n a minute or two afore we got in. Hope
'e 'asn't been an' stopped one."
**Do you remember where you got int" said
Kentucky. *'I believe I could find where that
machine gun was. If he was hit it must have been
there or in the trench here. I think we ought to
go and hunt for him."
But their officer and sergeant had other and
more imperative ideas as to their immediate
program. * * Pick up any of those picks and spades
OVER THE TOP 133
yon see lying abont/' ordered the sergeant, **and
try'n get this trench into shape a bit. The rest
of you get on to those sandbags and pile 'em up
for a parapet Sharp, now, every man there.
You, Pug, get along with it, bear a hand. That
arm of yours all right? If it isn't you'd best
shove along back to the rear."
A SIDE SHOW
Although Pug and Kentucky were not allowed
to go and look for their lost chum, and in fact
did not know for long enough what had happened
to him, the tale of that happening, I think, fits best
in here. It is perhaps all the more worth the tell-
ing because it is a sample of scores of incidents
that may never be heard of outside the few who
participated in them, but are characteristic of one
of the most amazing features of the New Armies
— ^and that, mark you, is rather a big word, re-
membering we are speaking of something which
itself is nothing but one huge amazing feature —
the readiness and smoothness with which it has
fallen into professional soldiering ways and the
instinct for fighting which over and over again
it has been proved to possess. And by fighting
instinct I do not mean so much that animal in-
stinct which every man has hidden somewhere in
his make-up to look out for himself and kill the
A SIDE SHOW 135
fellow who is trying to kill him, but rather that
peculiar instinct which picks a certain comer of a
trench as a key to a local position, which knows
that if a certain bit of ground can be taken or held
it will show much more than its face value, which
senses the proper time to hang on and the right
moment to risk a rush.
These, of course, are the instincts of leadership,
and these are the instincts which the New Army
has shown it possesses, not only in its officers and
non-coms., but time and again — ^in innumerable lit-
tle-known or unknown incidents of battle that have
been lost in the bigger issues — ^in the rank and
file, in privates who never were taught or ex-
pected to know anything about leadership, in men
brought up to every possible trade, profession
and occupation except war. One can only suppose
it is an instinct deep rooted in the race that has
lain dormant for generations, and only come to
life again in the reviving heat of war.
It will be remembered that Larry became sep-
arated from his two friends in their rush on the
German line, and just as they reached the remains
of the barbed wire before the German trench.
For the greater part the wire had been uprooted
and swept away by the storm of British shells and
136 GRAPES OF WRATH
mortar bombs, but here and there it still remained
sufficiently intact to make a difficult and unpleas-
Larry and Pug, deflected from their course by
one or two yawning shell craters, ran into one of
these undestroyed patches of wire, and while Pug
turned to the left, Larry turned right and ran
skirting along its edge in search of a place
through. Several other men did the same, and by
the time they had found an opening there were
about a score of them to go streaming through the
gap and plunging at the broken parapet. Half of
them were shot down in that last dozen yards,
and as they opened out and went clawing and
scrambling at the parapet with rifles banging al-
most in their faces, hand grenades lobbed over to
roll down amongst their feet and explode in show-
ers of flying splinters. The few who for the mo-
ment escaped these dangers, knowing that every
instant they remained in the open outside the
trench carried almost a certainty of sudden death,
flung desperately at its parapet, over and down
into it among the Grerman bayonets, without stop-
ping to count or heed what the hand-to-hand odds
Larry Arundel, at the lip of the trench, sud-
A SIDE SHOW 137
denly finding himself poised above a group of some
four or five men, checked his downward leap from
a first instinctive and absurd fear of hurting the
men he would jump down upon, recovered him-
self, and swung his rifle forward and thrust and
again thrust savagely down at the gray coats and
helmets below him, saw the bright steel strike
and pierce a full half its length with no other feel-
ing than a faint surprise that he should sense so
little check to its smooth swing, shortened the grip
on his rifle, and, thrusting again as he jumped,
leaped down into the space his bayonet had
cleared. The last man he had stabbed at evaded
the thrust, and like a flash stabbed back as Larry
landed in the trench. But the two were too close
for the point to be effective, and Larry *s hip and
elbow turned the weapon aside. He found him-
self almost breast to breast with his enemy, and
partly because there was no room to swing a
bayonlBt, partly because that undefended face and
point of the jaw awoke the boxer's instinct, his
clenched fist jerked in a fierce uppercut hard and
true to its mark, and the German grunted once
and dropped as if pole-axed.
But there Larry's career would probably have
cut short, because there were still a couple of
138 GRAPES OF WRATH
men within arm's length of him, and both were on
the point of attacking, when another little batch
of belated attackers arrived at the trench. Sev-
eral of them struck in at the point where Larry
was engaged with his opponents, and that particu-
lar scrimmage terminated with some abruptness.
Larry was a little dazed with the speed at which
events of the past minute had happened and also
to some extent by the rather stunning report of a
rifle fired just past his ear by a somewhat hasty
rescuer in settlement of the account of his nearest
**Wh-what's happened f he asked. **Have we
got this trench all right f
** Looks like it,*' said one of the others. **But
blest if I know how much of it. There didn't
seem to be much of our line get in along to the
right there to take their bit of front.''
** Let's have a look," said Larry, and scrambled
up the broken side of the trench. He stood there
a minute until half a dozen bullets whistling and
zipping dose past sent him ducking fast to cover.
** They've got the trench to our right safe
enough," he said, **and they seem to be advancing
beyond it. I suppose we ought to go on, too."
^^Wot's this fakement?" asked one of the men
A SIDE SHOW 139
who had been poking round amongst the debris of
the shattered trench. He held out a two-armed
affair with glasses at the ends.
**That,^' said Larry quickly, taking it and rais-
ing it above the edge of the trench — ^* that's some
sort of a periscope.^' He looked out through it
a moment and added: **And a dash good one it
is, too. • • • I say, that line of ours advancing on
the right is getting it in the neck. . . . Machine-
gun fire it looks like. . . . They've stopped. . . .
Most of 'em are down, and the rest running back
to the trench.''
He was interrupted by an exclamation from one
of the other men who had climbed up to look over
**Look out," he said hurriedly. **Bomb over,"
and he dropped back quickly into the trench.
A German stick grenade sailed over, fell on
the trench parapet above them, rolled a little, and
lay still, and in another second or two went off
with a crash, half deafening and blinding them
with the noise and smoke, but hurting no one.
Some of the men swore, and one demanded angrily
where the thing had come from, and **Who frew
dat brick t" quoted another.
But there was little room for jests. One, two,
140 GRAPES OF WEATH
three grenades came over in quick succession ; one
going over and missing the trench, another falling
in it at the toe of a man who promptly and neatly
kicked it clear round the comer of the traverse,
where it exploded harmlessly; but the third fall-
ing fairly in the trench, where it burst, just as
a man grabbed for it to throw it out, killing him
instantly and sUghtly wounding one or two others.
** Who's got those Mills f said Larry hurriedly.
**You, Harvey — chuck a couple over the traverse
to the right. Must be some of them in there. ' '
Harvey drew the pins out of a couple of Mills '
grenades and tossed them over, but even as they
burst another couple of German grenades came
over, one bursting in the air and the other f aUing
**IVe spotted them," suddenly said Larry, who
had been watching out through the periscope.
** There's some sort of trench running into this
about a dozen yards along. They're in there; I
saw the grenades come over out of if
Some of the men with him had moved back
out of section of trench under bombardment, and
as more grenades began to lob over there was a
mild stampede of the others round the traverse.
A SIDE SHOW 141
Larry went with them, but pulled up at the comer
and spoke sharply.
**See here, it's no good letting them chase ns
out like this. They'U only follow up and bomb
us out traverse by traverse till there's none of us
left to bomb out. Let's have some of those gre-
nades, Harvey, and we'll rush them out of it."
Some of the men hesitated, and others de-
murred, muttering that there weren't enough of
them, didn't know how many Germs there were,
ought to find an officer and let him know.
It was just here that Larry took hold and saved
what might have been an ugly situation. He saw
instinctively what their temporary or partial re-
tirement might mean. The advance on the right
had been held up, had evidently secured that por-
tion of the trench, but could only be holding it
weakly. The trench from which the grenades had
come was evidently a communicating trench. If
the Germans were free to push down it in force
they might re-secure a footing in the captured
main trench, and there would be no knowing at
what cost of time and men it would have to be re-
taken from them.
All this he saw, and he also saw the need for
prompt action. No officer, no non-commissioned
.142 GRAPES OF WRATH
oflSoer even, was with them, and by the time they
had sent back word of the position the Germans
might have secured their footing. Apparently
there was no one else there willing or able to
take command, so Larry took it.
He had never given a real order in his life —
even his orders to the office boy or typist at home
had always been in the form of **Will yon
please r^ or **Do yon mindr* He had no actnal
authority now to give commands, was the junior
in years and in service to several there. But give
orders he did, and, moreover, he gave them so
clear and clean-cut, and with such an apparent
conviction that they would be obeyed, that actu-
ally they were obeyed just as unhesitatingly and
wiUingly as if he had been Colonel of the regi-
In three minutes his dispositions were made
and his directions given, in four minutes his little
attack had been launched, in five minutes or little
more it had succeeded, and he was *4n possession
of the objective.^' He had about half a score of
men with him and a very limited supply of gre-
nades, obviously not sufficient strength to attempt
a deliberate bombing fight along the trench. So
at the greater risk perhaps, but with a greater
A SIDE SHOW 143
neck-or-nothing chance of success, he decided ta
lead his little party with a rush out of the trench
across the angle of the ground to where he had
seen the branching trench running into theirs.
Two men were told off to jump out on the
side they had entered, to run along under cover of
the parapet and shoot at any one who emerged
or showed in the entrance to the .communication
trench; two more to fling over a couple of gre-
nades into the trench section into which the com-
munication-way entered and follow it up with
their bayonets ready, one to push on along the
trench and bring any assistance he could raise, the
other to be joined by the two men above, and, if
the main attack succeeded, to push up along the
communication-way and join Larry ^s party.
This left Larry with half-a-dozen men to lead
in his rush over the open. The whole of his lit-
tle plans worked out neatly, exactly, and rapidly.
He waited for the crash of the two grenades his
bombers flung, then at his word **GoI'^ the two
men told off heaved themselves over the rear
parapet, and in a few seconds were pelting bullets
down the communication trench entrance; the
bombers scuffled along the trench without meeting
144 GRAPES OF WEATH
Larry and his men swarmed np and ont from
their cover, charged across the short, open space,
and in a moment were running along the edge of
the communication trench, shooting and stabbing
and tossing down grenades into it on top of the
surprised Germans there. There were about a
score of these clustered mainly near the juncture
with the other trench, and in half a minute this
little spot was converted into a reeking shambles
under the bursting grenades and the bullets that
poured into it from the two enfilading rifles.
Every man in that portion of trench was killed
— one might almost say butchered — ^without a
chance of resistance. Another string of Germans
apparently being hurried along the trench as re-
enforcements, were evidently stampeded by the
uproar of crashing bombs and banging rifles, the
yells and shouts of the attackers.
They turned and bolted back along their trench,
Larry's men in the open above them pursuing
and slaughtering them without mercy, until sud-
denly, somewhere across the open, some rifles and
a machine gun began to sweep the open, and a
storm of bullets to hail and patter about the little
party of Stonewalls.
Larry promptly ordered them down into the
A SIDE SHOW 145
trench, and they leaped in, and, raider cover from
the bullets above, continned to pnsh the retreating
Germans for another hundred yards along the
Here the enemy made a determined stand, and
Larry instantly realized that, with his weak force,
he had pushed his attack to the limit of safety.
He left a couple of men there to keep the enemy
in clay for a few minutes with a show of pressing
the attack with persistent bombing, and hurried
the others back to a point that offered the best
chance of making a stand.
He chose a short, straight stretch of trench
running into a wide and deep pit blown out by
one of our heavy shells. Round the edge of this
shell-crater pit ran a ready-made parapet thrown
up by the explosion, and forming a barricade
across the two points where the trench ran in and
out of it.
Man by man, Larry pointed out to his little
force the spot each was to occupy, and bade him
dig in for his life to make cover against the bomb-
ing that would assuredly be their portion very
soon. He himself crawled up on to the open to
some uprooted barbed wire he had noticed, was
dragging together all the tangled strands and
146 GRAPES OF WRATH
stakes he could move, when he noticed a rusty reel
of wire, half unwound, grabbed that, and shuf-
fled back into the trench.
A shrill whistle brought his two outposts hurry-
ing and hobbling in, one of them wounded in the
leg by a grenade fragment, the other with a clean
bullet wound through his forearm.
The barbed wire was hastily unreeled and piled
in loose coils and loops and tangles in the
straight bit of trench through which the Germans
must come at the pit, while from the pit barricade
one man tossed a grenade at intervals over the
heads of the workers into the section of trench
beyond them. But the wiring job had to be left
incomplete when the arrival of two or three
grenades gave warning of the coming attack, and
Larry and the others scrambled hurriedly over
the barricade parapet into the pit.
For tibe next ten minutes a hot fight — small in
point of the numbers engaged and space covered,
but savage in its intensity and speed — ^raged
round the pit. The Germans tried first to force
their way through by sheer weight of bombing.
But the Stonewalls had made full use of their
trenching tools and any scattered sandbags they
could pick up, and had made very good cover for
A SIDE SHOW 147
themselves. Each man was dug into a niche round
the inside of the parapet from which he could
look out either over the open ground or back into
The Germans showered grenades over into the
wired trench and the pit, and followed their ex-
plosions with a rush for the barricade, Larry,
with one man to either side of him, behind the
pit rim where it blocked the trench, stopped the
rush with half-a-dozen well-placed Mills ^ gre-
Almost at once the enemy copied the Stone-
walls' first plan of attack, and, climbing suddenly
from their trench, made to run along the top and
in on the defense. But their plan failed where
Larry's had succeeded, simply because Larry had
provided its counter by placing a man to ke^p a
lookout, and others where they could open a
prompt rifle-fire from the cover of the pit's para-
pet. The attack broke under the rapid fire that
met them, and the uninjured Germans scuttled
back into their trench.
A fresh bombing rush was tried, and this time
pushed home, in spite of the grenades that met it
and filled the trench bottom with a grewsome
debris of mangled men, fallen earth, and torn wire.
148 GRAPES OF WEATH
At the end the rush was only stopped at the very
parapet by Larry and his two fellows standing np
and emptying their rifle magazines into the men
who still crowded into the shambles trench, tear-
ing a way through the wire and treading their
own dead under foot
More of the Stonewalls were wounded by frag-
ments of the grenades which each man of the at-
tackers carried and threw over into the pit before
him, and one man was killed outright at the para-
pet by Larry ^s side. He was left with only four
effective fighting men, and, what was worse, his
stock of grenades was almost exhausted.
The end looked very near, but it was staved off
a little longer by the return of one of the severely
wounded men that Larry had sent back in search
of help, dragging a heavy box of German stick-
grenades. Nobody knew how to use these. Each
grenade had a head about the size and shape of
a 1-lb. jam tin attached to a wooden handle a
foot long. There was no sign of any pin to pull
out or any means of detonating the grenade, but
Larry noticed that the end of the handle was
metal-tipped and finished off with a disc with
A quick trial showed that this unscrewed and
A SIDE SHOW 149
revealed a cavity in the handle and a short, looped
length- of string coiled inside. Some rapid aad
rather risky experiments proved that a pnll on
the string exploded some sort of cap and started
a fnse, which in turn detonated the grenade in a
**Neat/' said Harvey, the bomber. **Bloomin'
neat; though I don't say as it beats the old Mills \
But, anyhow, we 're dash lucky to have *em. 'Ere
they come again, Larry 1''
**Sock it in,'' said Larry briefly. "There's
more bombs than we'll have time to use, I fancy,
so don't try'n save them up." He shouted or-
ders for any of the wounded that could move them-
selves to clear out, and set himself to tossing over
the grenades as fast as he could pull the detonat-
Then his last man on the lookout on the pit rim
yelled a warning and opened rapid fire, and Larry
knew that another rush was coming over the open.
That, he knew, was the finish, because now he had
no men left to keep up a fire heavy enough to stop
the rush above ground, and, if Harvey and he
went to help, the oeasing of their grenade-throw-
ing would leave the attack to come at him along
the shattered trench.
160 GRAPES OF WRATH
He and Harvey looked once at each other, and
went on grimly throwing grenades. Then Harvey
dropped without a word, and Larry, looking up,
saw a few Germans shooting over the pit rim.
They disappeared suddenly as he looked, cut down
— ^although he did not know that — by a heavy
rifle-fire that had been opened by the British-
owned trench behind him.
He yelled ^hoarsely at the one man left still fir-
ing from his niche up on the parapet, grabbed
the box with the remaining grenades, and made a
bolt across the pit for the other side and the
trench opening from it. The rifleman did the
same, but he fell half-way across, and Larry,
reaching cover, glanced round and saw the other
struggling to his knees, turned and dashed back,
and half dragged, half carried the man across, up
the crumbling edge of the pit, and heaved him
over into the trench mouth. Then he took up his
position behind the breastwork and made ready to
hold it to the last possible minute.
In that last minute assistance arrived — ^and
arrived clearly only just in time. Headed by an
officer, a strong detachment of the Stonewalls,
hurrying along the trench, found Larry standing
waist-high above the barricade jerking the deto-
A SIDE SHOW 151
nating-strings and hurling the last of his grenades
as fast as he could throw them into the pit, from
which arose a pandemonium of crashing explo-
sions, yells and shrieks, guttural curses and the
banging reports of rifles.
The Stonewalls swarmed, cheering, over the
barricade and down into the hole beyond like ter-
riers into a rat-pit. Most of the Germans there
threw down their rifles and threw up their hands.
The rest were killed swiftly, and the Stonewalls,
with hardly a check, charged across the pit into
the trench beyond, swept it clear of the enemy for
a full two hundred yards, and then firmly estab-
lished themselves in and across it with swiftly-
built barricades and plentiful stores of bombs.
Larry's share ended there, and Larry himself
exited from the scene of his first command quite
inconspicuously on a stretcher.
THE CX)trKTEB ATTACK
Kjsntttokt and Pug and their fellow Stonewalls
fell to work energetically, their movements has-
tened by a galling rifle or machine-gnn fire that
came pelting along their trench from somewhere
far out on the flank, and reaching the trench al-
most in enfilade, and by the warning screech and
crash of some shells bursting over thenL The
rain had ceased a few hours before, but the trench
was still sopping wet and thick with sticky mud.
It was badly battered and broken down, and was
little more for the most part than an irregular
and shallow ditch half filled with shattered tim-
bers, fallen earth, full and burst sandbags. Here
and there were stretches of comparatively unin-
jured trench, deep and strongly built, but even in
these, sandbags had been burst or blown out of
place by shell explosions, and the walls were crum-
bling and shaken and tottery. The Stonewalls
put in a very strenuous hour digging, refilling
THE COUNTER ATTACK 153
sandbag, piling them up, putting the trench into
some sort of shape to aflford cover and protection
against shell and rifle fire. There was no sun, bnt
the air was close and heavy and stagnant, and the
men dripped perspiration as they worked. Their
efforts began to slacken despite the urgings of the
officers and non-coms., bnt they speeded up again
as a heavier squall of shell fire shrieked up and
began to burst rapidly about and above the trench.
**I was beginning to think this trench was good
enough for anythin', and that we^d done diggin'
enough, ^^ panted Pug, heaving a half -split sand-
bag into place, flattening it down with the blows of
a broken pick-handle, and halting a moment to
lift his shrapnel helmet to the back of his head
and wipe a dirty sleeve across his wet forehead.
^^But I can see that it might be made a heap safer
** There's a plenty room for improvement,''
agreed Kentucky, wrenching and hauling at a
jumble of stakes and barbed wire that had been
blown in and half buried in the trench bottom.
When he had freed the tangle, he was commencing
to thrust and throw it out over the back of the
trench when an officer passing along stopped him.
* * Chuck it out in front, man alive, ' ' he said. * * We
154 GRAPES OF WRATH
don't want to check our side getting in here to
help nSy and it's quite on the cards we may need
it to help hold back the Boche presently. We're
expecting a counter-attack, you know."
''Do we knowf" said Pug, disgustedly, when
the oflSoer had passed along. **Mebbe you do, but
I'm blowed if I know anythink about it. All I
know I could put in me eye an' then not know it
was there even."
**I wish I knew where Larry is, or what's hap-
pened to him," said Kentucky. '*I'm some wor-
ried about him."
A string of light shells crashed overhead, an-
other burst banging and crackling along the
trench, and a procession of heavier high explo-
sive began to drop ponderously in geyser-hke
spoutings of mud and earth and smoke. The
Stonewalls crouched low in the trench bottom,
while the ground shook under them, and the air
above sang to the drone and whine of flying shell
fragments and splinters. Our own guns took up
the challenge, and started to pour a torrent of
light and heavy shells over on to the German
lines. For a time the opposing guns had mat-
ters all to themselves and their uproar completely
dominated the battle. And in the brief intervals
THE COUNTER ATTACK 155
of the nearer bangs and crashes the Stonewalls
could hear the deep and constant roar of gun-fire
throbbing and booming and rolling in full blast up
and down along the line.
**I s^pose the papers ^ud call this an ar-tillery
doo-el,^^ remarked Pug, **or re-noo-ed ar-tillery
**I always thought a duel was two lots fighting
each other/' said a man hunkered down close in
the trench bottom beside him; **but the gunners'
notion of dueling seems to be to let each other
alone and each hammer the other lot's infantry."
** Seems like they're passing a few packets back
to each other though," said Kentucky. '*Hark at
that fellow up there," as a heavy shell rumbled
and roared over high above them, and the noise
of its passing dwindled and died away, and was
drowned out in the steadily sustained uproar of
the nearer reports and shell bursts.
** Stand to there!" came a shout along the
trench. **Look out, there, C Company. • . •
Wait the word, then let 'em have it. . . . Don't
waste a shot, though."
**Wot's comin' nowf" said Pug, scrambling
to his feet. Kentucky was already up and settling
156 GRAPES OF WEATH
himself into position against the front wall of the
** Looks like that counter-attack we heard of/*
he said. *^And — ^yes, by the Lord, some counter-
attack too. Say, look at *em, will you? Jes* look
and see *em come a-boiling.**
Pug, snuggling down beside him, and pounding
his elbow down on the soft earth to make a con-
venient elbow-rest, paused and peered out into the
drifting haze of smoke that obscured the front.
At first he could see nothing but the haze, starred
with the quick fire flashes and thickened with the
rolling clouds of our guns * shrapnel bursts. Then
in the filmy gray and dun-colored cloud he saw
another, a more solid and deeper colored gray
bank that rolled steadily towards them.
' * Gaw *strewth, * * he gasped. * * Is that men f Is
all that lump Germans f Blimey, it must be their
*ole bloomin* army comin* at us.**
' ' There sure is a big bunch of *em, * * said Ken-
tucky. * ' Enough to roll us out flat if they can get
in amongst us. This is where we get it in the neck
if we can*t stop *em before they step into this
trench. It looks ugly. Pug. Wonder why they
don*t give the order to fire.**
**I*ve never bayoneted a *Un yet,** said Pug,
THE COUNTER ATTACK 157
''but mebbe 1^11 get a chawnce this time/* He
peered out into the smoke. *^Can you see if
theyVe got 'elmets on, Kentuck?*' he said anx-
iously. **I'm fair set on one o' them ^ehnets.*'
To Kentucky and Pug, and probably to most
of the rest of the Stonewalls* rank and file, the
German counter-attack boiled down into a mere
matter of the rapid firing of a very hot rifle into
a dense bank of smoke and a dimly seen mass of
men. Each man shot straight to his front, and
took no concern with what might be happening
to right or left of that front. In the beginning
the word had been passed to set the sights at point
blank and fire low, so that there was no need at
any time to bother about altering ranges, and the
men could devote the whole of their attention to
rapid loading and firing. So each simply shot and
shot and went on shooting at full speed, glancing
over the sights and squeezing the trigger, jerking
the bolt back and up, and pulling trigger again
till the magazine was empty; then, throwing the
butt down to cram a fresh clip of cartridges into
the breech, swinging it up and in again to the
shoulder, resuming the rapid shoot-and-load,
shoot-aujd-load until the magazine was empty
again. Each man was an automatic machine.
158 GRAPES OF WEATH
pumping out so many bullets in so many seconds,
and just because long drill and training had all
gone to make the aiming and shooting mechani-
cally correct and smooth and rapid it was me-
chanically deadly in its effect. And because the
motions of shooting were so entirely mechanical
they left the mind free to wander to other and,
in many cases, ridiculously trivial things. Ken-
tucky began to fear that his stock of cartridges
would not last out, began vaguely to worry over
the possibiUty of having to cease shooting even
for a minute, until he could obtain a fresh sup-
ply. Pug was fiUed with an intense irritation
over the behavior of his rifle, which in some mys-
terious fashion developed a defect in the loading
of the last cartridge from each clip. The car-
tridge, for some reason, did not slide smoothly
into the chamber, and the bolt had to be with-
drawn an inch and slammed shut again each time
the last cartridge came up. Probably the extra
motion did not delay Pug^s shooting by one sec-
ond in each clip, but he was as annoyed over it
as if it had reduced his rate by half. He cursed
his rifle and its parts, breech, bolt, and magazine
severally and distinctly, the cartridges and the
clips, the men and the machinery who had made
THE COUNTER ATTACK 159
each ; but at no time did he check the speed of his
shooting to curse. * * What *s the matter f ' ' shouted
Kentucky at last. **This Masted rifle, '* yelled
Pug angrily, jerking at the bolt and slamming it
home again, '* keeps stickin* all the time.'* Ken-
tucky had some half-formed idea of saying that it
was no good trying to shoot with a sticking rifle,
and suggesting that Pug should go look for an-
other, handing over meantime any cartridges he
had left to replenish his, Kentucky's, diminishing
store ; but just then two men came pushing along
the trench carrying a box of ammunition and
throwing out a double handful of cartridges to
each man. Kentucky grabbed. **0h, good man,''
he said joyfully; *'but say, can't you give us a
few more f ' '
Pug glanced round at the heap flung at his
elbow. ^*Wha's th' good o' themf " he snapped.
**F'r Gawd' sake rather gimme a rifle that'll
shoot. ' '
*'Eifle!" said one of the men; ^ there's plenty
spare rifles about"; and he stooped and picked
one from the trench bottom, dropped it beside
Pug, and pushed on. Pug emptied his magazine,
dropped his rifle, snatched up the other one, and
resumed shooting. But he was swearing again
160 GRAPES OF WEATH
before he had fired off the one clip, and that done,
flung the rifle from him and grabbed his own.
** Rotten thing, *^ he growled. ''It don^t fit, don't
set to a man's shoulder; an' it kicks like a crazy
mule. ' '
Both he and Kentuc^ had jerked out their
sentences between shots, delaying their shooting
no fraction of a second. It was only, and even
then reluctantly, when there was no longer a visi-
ble target before their sights that they slowed up
and stopped. And then both stayed still, with
rifles pointing over the parapet, peering into the
smoke ahead. Kentucky drew a long breath.
* ' They Ve quit ; and small blame to theuL ' '
**Got a bit more'n they bargained for, that
time, ' ' said Pug exultantly, and then * ' Ouch I ' ' in
a sharp exclamation of pain. ''What's the mat-
ter!" said Kentucky. "You feeling that arm?"
"No, no," said Pug hastily, "just my elbow
feelin' a bit cramped an' stiffish wi' leanin' on it."
The rifle fire was slackening and dying along
the line, but the shells still whooped and rushed
overhead and burst flaming and rolling out balls
of white smoke over the ground in front. "Wish
them guns 'd knock orf a bit till we see what sorter
damage we've done," said Pug. But along to the
THE COUNTER ATTACK 161
right with a roUing crash the rifles burst out into
full blast again. **Look out/* said Kentucky
quickly, **here they come again/* and he tossed
muzzle over the parapet and commenced to pump
bullets at the gray bulk that had become visible
looming through the smoke clouds again. He was
filled with eagerness to make the most of each
second, to get off the utmost possible number of
rounds, to score the most possible hits. He had
just the same feeling, only much more intensified,
that a man has at the butts when the birds are
coming over fast and free. Indeed, the feeling
was so nearly akin to that, the whole thing was
so like shooting into driven and helpless game,
the idea was so strong that the Germans were
there as a target to be shot at, and he there as a
shooter, that it gave him a momentary shock of
utter astonishment when a bullet hit the parapet
close to him and threw a spurt of mud in his face,
and almost at the same instant another hit glano-
ing on the top of his helmet, jolting it back on his
head and spinning it round until the chin-strap
stopped it with an unpleasant jerk on his throat.
He realized suddenly, what for the moment he had
completely forgotten, that he was being shot at
as well as shooting, that he was as liable to be
162 GRAPES OF WEATH
killed as one of those men ont there he was pelting
bullets into. Actually, of course, his risk was not
one-tenth of the attackers'. He was in cover and
the men advancing against the trench were doing
little shooting as they came. They on the other
hand were in the open, exposed full length and
height, were in a solid mass through and into
which the sleeting bullets drove and poured in a
continuous stream. Machine-gun and rifle fire
beat fiercely upon its face, while from above a
deluge of high-explosive shells and tearing gusts
of shrapnel fell upon it, rending and shattering
and destroying. And in spite of the tempest of
fire which smote it the mass still advanced. It
was cut down almost as fast as it could come on,
but yet not quite as fast, and the men in the
trencdi could see the front line constantly break-
ing and melting away, with ragged, shifting gaps
opening and closing quickly along its length, with
huge mouthfuls torn out of it by the devouring
shells, with whole slices and wedges cut away by
the scything bullets, but still filling in the gaps,
closing up the broken ranks, pressing doggedly
and desperately on and in on their destroyers.
But at last the attack broke down. It had cov-
ered perhaps a hundred yards, at an appalling
THE COUNTER ATTACK 163
cost of lives, when it checked, gave slowly, and
then broke and vanished. Most of the men left
on their feet turned and ran heavily, but there
were still some who walked, and still others who
even then either refused to yield the ground they
had taken or preferred the chance of shelter and
safety a prone position offered rather than the
heavy risk of being cut down by the bullets as
they retreated. These men dropped into shell
holes and craters, behind the heaps of dead, flat
on the bare ground; and there some of them lay
motionless, and a few, a very few, others thrust
out their rifles and dared to shoot.
A heavy shell screamed over and burst just
behind the Stonewalls' trencn. Another and an-
other followed in quick succession, and then, as
if this had been a signal to the German guns,
a tornado of shells swept roaring down upon the
British line. It was the heaviest and most de-
structive fire the Stonewalls had yet been called
upon to face. The shells were of every weight and
description. The coming of each of the huge
high explosives was heralded by a most appalling
and nerve-shaMng, long-drawn, rising torrent of
noise that for the moment drowned out all the
other noises of battle, and was only exceeded in
164 GRAPES OF WEATH
its terror-inspiring volnme by the rending, bel-
lowing crash of its burst; their lesser brethren,
the 5-in. and 6-in. H.E., were small by compari-
son, but against that their numbers were far
g^reater, and they fell in one long pitiless succes-
sion of hammer-blows up and down the whole
length of trench, filling the air with dirty black
foul-smelling smoke and the sinister, vicious, and
ugly sounding drone and whurr and whistle of
flying splinters; and in still larger numbers the
lighter shells, the shrapnel and H.E. of the field
guns, the ^^Whizz-Bangs'* and ** Pip-Squeaks,"
swept the trench with a regular fusillade of their
savage *' rush-crash'' explosions. The air grew
dense and choking with the billowing clouds of
smoke that curled and drifted about the trench,
thickened and darkened until the men could
hardly see a dozen yards from them.
Pug, crouched low in the bottom of the trench
beside Kentucky, coughed and spluttered, ** Bad's
a real old Lunnon Partickler," he said, and spat
An officer, followed by three men, crawled along
the trench towards them. **Here you are, Cor-
poral," said the officer, halting and looking over
his shoulder ; ^ * this will do for you two. Get over
THE COUNTER ATTACK 165
here and ont about fifty yards. Come on, the
other man. We'll go over a bit further along/'
and he crawled off, followed by the one man.
**Wot's the game, Corp'rilf asked Pug, as
the two began to creep over the top of the para-
pet. **List'nin' post,'' said the Corporal briefly.
^*Goin' to lie out there a bit, in case they makes a
rush through the smoke," and he and his compan-
ion vanished squirming over the shell-torn ground
A few minutes later another couple of men
crawled along and huddled down beside Pug.
** Crump blew the trench in on some o' us along
there," said one. *' Buried a couple an' sent Jim
an' me flyin'. Couldn't get the other two out
neither. Could we, Jim!" Jim only shook his
head. He had a slight cut over one eye, from
which at intervals he mechanically wiped the blood
with a shaking hand.
* * Trench along there is a fair wreck, ' ' went on
the other, then stopped and held his breath at the
harsh rising roar that told of another heavy shell
approaching. The four men flattened themselves
to earth until the shell struck with a heavy jarring
THUMP that set the ground quivering. **Dud,"
said two or three of them simultaneously, and
166 GRAPES OF WEATH
** Thank God,'* said Kentucky, ^Hhe burst would
liave sure got us that time/'
*^Wot*s that they're shoutin* along there f
said Pug anxiously. ^ * Strewth ! ' * and he gasped
a deep breath and grabbed hurriedly for the bag
slung at his side. **Gas . . . * Helmets on/
Through the acrid odors of the explosives'
fumes Kentucky caught a faint whiff of a heavy,
sickly, sweet scent. Instantly he stopped breath-
ing and, with the other three, hastily wrenched
out the flannel helmet slung in its special bag by
his side, pulled it over his head, and, clutching
its folds tightly round his throat with one hand,
tore open his jacket collar, stuffed the lower edge
of the flannel inside his jacket and buttoned it up
again. All four finished the oft-drilled operation
at the same moment, lay perfectly quiet, inhaling
the pungent odor of the impregnated flannel, and
peering upward through the eye-pieces for any
visible sign of the gas.
They waited there without moving for another
five minutes, with the shells still pounding and
crashing and hammering down all round them.
Pug leaned over and put his muflled mouth close
to Kentucky's ear: *^They got a dead set on us
THE COUNTEE ATTACK 167
here," he shouted. ^* Looks like our miinber was
up this time, an 's if they meant to blow this trench
Kentucky nodded his cowled head. It did look
as if the German gunners were determined to com-
pletely obliterate that portion of the trench, but
meantime — ^it was very ridiculous, of course, but
there it was — ^his mind was completely filled with
vague gropings in his memory to recall what per-
fume it was that the scent of the gas reminded
him of. He puzzled over it, recalling scent after
scent in vain, sure that he was perfectly familiar
with it, and yet unable to place it. It was most
intensely and stupidly irritating.
The shell fire worked up to a pitch of the most
ferocious intensity. None actually hit the portion
of trench the four were in, but several came dan-
gerously dose in front, behind, and to either side
of them. The wall began to crumble and shake
down in wet clods and crumblings, and at the
burst of one shell close out in front, a large piece
broke off the front edge and fell in, followed by
a miniature landslide of falling earth. The trench
appeared to be on the point of collapsing and
falling in on them.
168 GRAPES OF WRATH
*^We gotter move out o* this!*^ shouted Pug,
*'else we ^11 be buried alive/*
*^ What's the good of . . . don't believe there's
any one left but us . . • better get out of it," said
the man Jim. His voice was muffled and indis-
tinct inside his helmet, but although the others
only caught fragments of his sentences his mean-
ing was plain enough. The four looked at each
other, quite uselessly, for the cowl-like helmets
masked all expression and the eyes behind the
celluloid panes told nothing. But instinctively they
looked from one to the other, poking and twisting
their heads to bring one another within the vision
range of the eye-pieces, so that they looked
like some strange ghoidish prehistoric monsters
half -blind and wholly horrible. Jim's companion
mumbled something the others could not hear, and
nodded his shapeless head slightly. His vote was
for retirement, for although it had not been
spoken, retirement was the word in question in the
minds of all. Kentucky said nothing. True, it
appeared that to stay there meant destruction;
it appeared, too, that the Stonewalls as a fight-
ing force must already be destroyed . . . and
. . . and ... violets I was it the scent of violets!
No, not violets ; but some flower . . .
THE COUNTER ATTACK 169
Pug broke in. ^* There's no orders to retire/'
he said. * * There 's no orders to retire, ' ' and poked
and turned his head, peering at one after the other*
of them. '*We cam't retire when there ain't no
orders," waggling his pantomimic head trium-
phantly as if he had completely settled the matter.
But their portion of trench continued to cave in
alarmingly. A monster shell falling close out
on their right front completed the destruction.
The trench wall shivered, slid, caught and held,
slid again, and its face crumbled and fell in. The
four saw it giving and scrambled clear. They
were almost on the upper ground level now, but
the hurried glances they threw round showed
nothing bat L chnmed np gronnd. the drifting
curling smoke-wreaths, tinted black and green and
yeUow and dirty wHte, torn whirling asunder
every few moments by the fresh shell bursts which
intnrnponr«iontmorebinowingdond,. No man
of the Stonewalls, no man at all, coiQd be seen,
and the four were smitten with a sudden sense of
loneliness, of being left abandoned in this end-
of-the-world inferno. Then the man Jim noticed
something and pointed. Dimly through the smoke
to their left they saw one man running half
doubled up, another so stooped that he almost
170 GRAPES OF WEATH
crawled. Both wore kilts, and both moved for-
ward. In an instant they disappeared, but the
sight of them brought new life and vigor to the
**The Jocks that was on our left,** shouted
Pug, **gettin* outer the trench into shell-holes.
Good enough, too. Come on.'*
They did not have far to seek for a shell-hole.
The ground was covered with them, the cirde of
one in many cases cutting the circle of the next.
There were many nearer available, but Pug
sheered to his left and ran for the place he had
seen the two Highlanders disappear, and the
others followed. There were plenty of bullets fly-
ing, but in the noise of shell-fire the sound of their
passing was drowned, except the sharp, angry hiss
of the nearer ones and the loud smacks of those
that struck the ground about them.
They had less than a dozen yards to cover, but
in that short space two of them went down. Jim's
companion was struck by a shell splinter and
killed instantly. Pug, conscious only of a violent
blow on the side, fell, rolling from the force of the
stroke. But he was up and running on before
Kentucky had well noticed him fall, and when
they reached the shell-hole and tumbled into it
THE COUNTEE ATTACK 171
almost on top of the two Highlanders there, Pug,
cautiously feeling round his side, discovered his
haversack slashed and torn, its contents broken
and smashed flat. **Fust time IVe been glad o* a
tin o ' bully, ' * he shouted, exhibiting a flattened tin
of preserved meat. **But I s'pose it was the bis-
cuits that was really the shell-proof bit.*'
**Are you hurt at all!'* said Kentucky. **Not
a ha'porth,'* said Pug. **Your pal was outed
though, wasn't 'e, chum!*'
The other man nodded. *S . . cross the neck
. . . *is 'eadtoo . • . as a stone. . . .'*
*^ You're no needin' them,'' said one of the
Highlanders suddenly. *^It's only tear-shells — no
the real gas."
The others noticed then that they were wearing
the huge goggles that protect the eyes from
*^tear," or lachrymatory shells, and the three
Stonewalls exchanged their own helmets for the
glasses with huge relief.
^*What lot are you!" said one of the Scots.
**0h, ay; you're along on oor right, aren't ye!"
**We was," said Pug; *^but I 'aven't seen one
o' ours since this last shell strafin' began. I'm
wondering if there 's any left but us three. Looks
like our trench was blotted out."
172 GRAPES OF WRATH
But on that he was corrected swiftly and dra-
matically. The pouring shells ceased suddenly to
crash over and about them, continued only to rush,
shrieking and yelling, high above their heads. At
the same moment a figure appeared suddenly from
the ground a little in front of them, and came
running back. He was passing their shelter when
Kentucky recognized him as the officer who earlier
had moved along the trench to go out in front and
establish a listening post. He caught sight of the
little group at the same moment, swerved, and ran
in to them. * * Look out, ' ' he said ; * * another attack
coming. You Stonewalls! Where's our trench!
Further back, isn *t it f
** What's left of it, sir,'' said Kentudiy.
** Mighty near blotted out, though.".
* * Open fire, ' ' said the officer. * * Straight to your
front. You'll see 'em in a nmiute. I must try'n
find the others."
But evidently the word of warning had reached
the others, for a sharp crackle of rifle fire broke
out along to the right, came rattling down towards
them in uneven and spasmodic bursts. The men
in the sheU-hole lined its edge and opened fire,
while the officer trotted on. A dozen paces away
he crumpled and fell suddenly, and lay still. In
THE COUNTEE ATTACK 173
the shell-liole they were too busy to notice his fall,
but from somewhere further back, out of the
smoke-oozing, broken ground, a couple of figures
emerged at the double, halted by the limp figure,
lifted and carried it back.
** There's still some of us left,*' said Pug, cheer-
fully, as they heard the jerky rifle fire steady down
and commence to beat out in the long roll of in-
dependent rapid fire.
**Not too many, though,'' said Kentucky anx-
iously. **And it took us all our time to stand 'em
off before, ' ' he added significantly. He turned to
the two Highlanders, who were firing coolly and
methodically into the thinning smoke. * * Can you
see 'em yetf "
**No," said one, without turning his head; **but
we've plenty cairtridges ... an' a bullet gangs
straight enough withoot seein '. ' ' And he and the
other continued to fire steadily.
Then suddenly a puff of wind thinned and lifted
the smoke cloud, and at the same instant all saw
again that grim gray wall rolling down upon them.
The five rifles in the pit crashed together, the bolts
clicked back, and the brass cartridge-cases winked
out and fell ; and before they had ceased to roll
where they dropped the five rifles were banging
174 GRAPES OF WEATH
again, and the five men were plying bolt and trig-
ger for dear life. Behind them and to the right
and left other rifles were drumming and roaring
out a furious fire, and through their noise rose the
sharp tat-tat-tat-tat of the machine guns. The
British artillery, too, had evidently seen their tar-
get, the observers had passed back the corrections
of range and rapid sequence of orders, and the
bellowing guns began to rake and batter the ad-
But this time they had an undue share of the
work to do. For all the volume and rapidity of
the infantry fire, it was quickly plain that its
weight was not nearly as great as before, that the
intense preparatory bombardment had taken
heavy toll of the defenders, that this time the at-
tack had nothing like the numbers to overcome
that it had met and been broken by before. Again
the advancing line shredded and thinned as be-
fore under the rifle and shell fire, but this time
the gaps were quicker filled ; the whole line came
on at greater speed. In the pit the five men shot
with desperate haste, but Kentucky at least felt
that their effort was too weak, that presently the
advancing tide must reach and overwhelm them.
Although other shell-holes to right and left were
THE COUNTER ATTACK 175
occupied as theirs was they were slightly in ad-
vance of the ragged line, and must be the first to
be caught. There was nothing left thein appar-
ently but to die fighting. But if the others saw
this they gave no sign of it— continued merely to
fire their fastest.
One of the Highlanders exclaimed suddenly,
half rose, and dropped again to his knees. The
blood was welling from a wound in his throat, but
as his body sagged sideways he caught himself
with a visible effort, and his hands, which had
never loosed their grip on the rifle, fumbled at the
breech a moment, and slipped in a fresh clip of
cartridges. He gulped heavily, spat out a great
mouthful of frothy blood, spoke thidkly and in
gasps, * * Hey, Mao . • . tak' her, for . . . the last.
The magazine's full ..." And he thrust out the
rifle to the other Soot with a last effort, lurched
sideways, and slid gently down in the bottom of
the pit. The other man caught the rifle quickly,
placed it by his side, and resumed firing. The
others never ceased for a moment to load and fire
at top speed. Plainly there was no time to attend
to the dead or wounded when they themselves were
visibly near the end the other had met.
The German line was coming in under the guard
176 GRAPES OF WEATH
of the shells that the gunners dared not drop
closer for fear of hitting their own line. The rifles
were too few to hold back the weight of men that
were coming in now in a scattered rush.
Pug cursed wrathfully. ^*I do believe the
blighters is goin' to get in on us,*^ he said ; and by
his tone one might suppose he had only just re-
alized the possibility; was divided between as-
tonishment and anger at it. Kentucky, who had
looked on the possibility as a certainty for some
little time back, continued to pick a man of the ad-
vancing line, snap-shoot hurriedly at him, load
and pick another target. And away somewhere
in the back of his mind his thoughts worked aud
worried at the old, irritating puzzle — ** Lilies, no;
but something like them . . . heavy, sweetish . . .
not lilies . . . what other flower, now . . .**; Jim,
the third Stonewall, glanced back over his shoul-
der. **Why can^t them fellows back there shoot
a bit quicker!** he said irritably. **They*ll have
this lot a-top o* us if they don*t look out.** Ken-
tucky, his fingers slipping in a fresh cartridge-clip,
his eye singling out a fresh mark, was slightly
amused to notice that this man, too, seemed sur-
prised by the possibility of the Germans breaMng
through their fire; and all the while **. . . lilac,
THE COUNTEE ATTACK 177
stocks, honeysuckle, hyacinth . . . hyacinth, hya-
cinth, no ... '^; the Scot lifted the dead man's
rifle and put it on the ledge at his right elbow.
**Strewth,** said Pug, with confident cheerful-
ness. *^ Won't our chaps make them 'Uns squeal
when they gets close enough for the baynit!''
The shells continued to rush and scream over-
head, and burst in and over the mass of the at-
tackers. But the front line was well in under this
defense now, scrambling and struggling over the
broken ground. The nearest groups were within
thirty to forty yards.
They were near enough now for the bombers
to come into play, and from the scattered shell-
holes along the British line little black objects be*
gan to whiri and soar out into the air, and the
sharp crashes of the exploding Mills' grenades
rose rapidly into a constant shattering series that
over-ran and drowned out the rolling rifle fire.
The ground out in front belched quick spurts of
flame and smoke, boiled up anew in another
devil's cauldron of destruction.
The advancing Germans were for the moment
hidden again behind the swirling smoke bank,
but now they too were using their bombs, and the
stick-grenades came sailing out of the smoke;
178 GRAPES OF WRATH
curving over, bombing down and rolling or bucket-
ing end over end to burst about the British line.
One fell fairly in the shell-crater beside Kentucky,
and he had only bare time to grab at it, snatch it
up and fling it clear before it burst. And yet,
even as he snatched half expecting the thing to
go off in his hand, his mind was still running on
the memory quest after the elusive name of that
scent he had forgotten.
The German line emerged from the smoke, rag-
gedly but yet solidly enough to overwhelm the
weakened defense. Plainly this was the end.
** Roses, *^ said Kentucky, suddenly and trium-
phantly. * * Roses — ^tuberoses. That 's it exactly. * '
Among the stock situations of the melodrama, one
of the most worked to death is that of the be-
leaguered garrison at the last gasp, and the thrill-
ing arrival of the rescuing force at the critical
moment. It is so old and threadbare now that
probably no theater would dare stage it; but in
the war the same situation has been played again
and again in the swaying and straining lines of
battle in every variety of large and small scale.
What the theater has rejected as too theatrical,
the artificial as too artificial, the real has accepted
as so much a conunonplace that it is hardly re-
marked. Actually the battle line is one long series
of critical situations on one side or the other, the
timely arrival, or failure to arrive, of assistance
at the critical moment. The great difference is
that in the theater the rescue never fails to arrive,
in war it often does.
Certainly the Stonewalls were as near the last
180 GRAPES OF WRATH
gasp as ever dramatist would dare bring Ms
crisis ; but when their rescue came they were too
busy helping it, too busy pushing the Germans
back into what they hoped would be a similar un-
pleasant situation (without the timely rescue) to
bother about it being a ** dramatic situation*^
The Scot and the three Stonewalls shooting
from the shell crater a little in front of the thin
and scattered line were close enough to the front
groups of the advancing German Une to distin-
guish the features of the men^s faces,, when they
were suddenly aware that the groups were going
down : were vanishing from before their eyes, that
the charging line came no nearer, that its front,
if anything, receded. The front lines were being
cut down now faster than they could advance,
and the lines which fell dropped out of the low
vision line of the defenders, and were hidden in
the low-hanging smoke haze and in the welter of
shell-pits, furrows, and heaps of earth over which
the advance moved. The sound of the rifle fire
swelled suddenly and heavily; the air grew vi-
brant with the hiss and zipp of bullets.
The four in the shell pit continued to give all
their attention to rapid shooting until the sound
FORWARD OBSERVING 181
of running footsteps and shouting voices made
them turn. All along the line to right and left of
them they could see figures running forward in
short rushes, halting to fire, running on again,
dropping into holes and opening a rapid fire from
their cover. Into the pit beside the four tiunbled
three men one after another, panting and blowing,
but shouting and laughing. ** Cheer oh, mates/'
calleid one. "Give us a bit o' room on the front
edge there, will you!** Each of the three carried
some burden. They clustered closely together a
moment, but with a delay of no more than seconds
stood up and began to hoist into position on the
pit's edge a light machine gun. "Let *er rip,
Bill,'* said one, who wore the tunic of an officer;
and Bill, crouching behind his gun, started to "let
*er rip" in a stream of fire jets and clattering re-
"You boys were pretty near the limit, eh!"
said the officer. * * Mighty near, * * said Kentucky ;
"you just sat into the game in time to stop *em
scooping the pool, sir. * '
"Hey, Chick, get a move on wi' that loadin*
there," said Bill; "you're hardly keepin' the ol'
coffee mill grindin'."
"You're Anzacs, ain't you!" said Pug, noticing
182 GRAPES OF WEATH
the shirt-tunic the oflScer wore. Bill was bare-
headed ; Chick wore a metal helmet crammed down
on top of his slouch hat.
*^ That's what,*' said Chick, feverishly busy
with his loading. **What crowd are youT'
*' Fifth Sixth Stonewalls,'' said Pug.
** You was damn near bein' First 'n' Last Stone-
colds this trip, ' ' said Chick. * * Good job we buzzed
in on you.*'
A few yards away another machine gun, peer-
ing over the edge of a shell crater, broke out in
frantic chattering reports.
*^ That's Bennet's gun, I expect,'' said the offi-
cer; *^I'll just slide over and see how he goes.
Keep her boiling here, and mind you don't move
out of this till you get the word."
Chick nodded. **Eight-oh!" he said, and the
officer climbed out of the hole and ran off.
For another minute or two the machine gun
continued to spit its stream of bullets. ** They 're
breaking again," said Kentucky suddenly; *^my
Lord, look how the guns are smashing them. ' '
The attack broke and fell back rapidly, with the
running figures stumbUng and falling in clusters
under the streaming bullets and hailing shrapnel.
In less than half a minute the last running man
FORWAED OBSEEVING 183
had disappeared, the ground was bare of moving
figures, but piled with dead and with those too
badly wounded to crawl into cover.
** First round to us,*' said Bill cheerfully, and
cut off the fire of his gun. **An* last move to a
good many o * them blokes out there, ' ' said Chick ;
' * they fairly got it in the neck that time. I haven 't
seen such a bon^r target to strafe since we was in
* * Is there many o * you chaps here f ' * said Pug.
^*Dunno rightly,*' said Chick, producing a packet
of cigarettes. * * 'Bout time for a smoke-oh, ain 't
*^I'm too blame dry to smoke," said Bill.
** Wonder wot we're waitin' 'ere for now. D'you
think the other battalions is upf "
* * Have you heard anything about how the show
is going!" said Kentucky.
^*Good-oh, tiiey tell us," said Chick. *^We saw
a big bunch o' prisoners back there a piece, an'
we hear there's two or three villages taken. We
came up here to take some other village just in
front here. I s'pose they'll loose us on it pres-
There was a short lull in the gunfire, and the
noisy passage of the shells overhead slowed down.
184 GRAPES OF WRATH
A shout was heard: ** Close in on your right,
Stonewalls. Rally along to the right/'
**Hear that!*' said Pug, *Hhere is some Stone-
walls left, then. Blimey, if I wasn't beginnin' to
think we was the sole survivors."
**We'd best move along," said Kentucky, and
the three made ready. **Well, so long, mates,"
said Chick, and **See you in Berlin — or the nex'
world," said Bill lightly.
**Tio your right, Stonewalls; close to your
right, ' ' came the shout again, and the three clam-
bered out of their hole and doubled in across the
torn ground to their right. There were other men
doing the same, stooped low, and taking advan-
tage of any cover they found, and gradually the
remains of the battalion gathered loosely together,
in and about the remains of the old trench. Pug
and Kentucky anxiously questioned every man
they met as to whether they had seen anything of
Larry Arundel, but could get no tidings of him.
The battalion was rapidly if roughly sorted out
into its groups of companies, and when this was
done and there were no signs of Larry, little could
be concluded but that he had been killed or
wounded. **He'd sure have been looking for us,"
said Kentucky; '^I'm afraid he's a wash-out.
FOEWAED OBSERVING 185
** Looks like it,*' said Pug sadly. **But mebbe
he's only wounded. Let's hope it's a cushy one."
The guns were opening behind them again, and
bombarding with the utmost violence a stretch of
the ground some little distance in front. **It's a
village we're to take," one of the sergeants told
them. **That was our objective when the German
counter-attack stopped us. We were to attack,
with the Anzacs in support. Suppose we're going
on with the original program; but we're pretty
weak to tackle the job now. Hope the Jocks on
the left didn't get it too bad."
* * Should think we was due for a bit of an ease-
oflf , ' ' said Pug. * * It 's long past my usual desh-oo-
nay time as it is."
An officer moved along the line. **Now, boys,
get ready," he said, **the next bit's the last. Our
turn's over when we take this village. Make a
quick job of it."
In front of them the ground was shrouded again
with drifting smoke, and out beyond the broken
ground and the remains of a shattered parapet
they could see the flashing fires and belching
smoke clouds of the shells that continued to pour
over and down. In a minute or two the fire lifted
back from the belt where it had been thundering,
186 GEAPES OF WEATH
and at that the Stonewalls, with the Highlanders
to one side and another regiment to the other,
rose and began to advance. From their front there
came little opposition, bnt from somewhere ont on
the flank a rain of machine-gun bullets swept driv-
ing down upon them. The Stonewalls pushed on
doggedly. It was heavy going, for the ground
was torn and plowed up in innumerable furrows
and pits and holes and ridges, laced with clutch-
ing fragments of barbed-wire, greasy and slippery
with thick mud. The Stonewalls went on slowly
but surely, but on their right the other regiment,
which had perhaps caught the heavier blast of fire,
checked a little, struggled on again gamely, with
men falling at every step, halted, and hastily
sought cover amongst the shell holes. The Stone-
walls persisted a little longer and went a little fur-
ther, but the fire grew fiercer and faster, and pres-
ently they too, with the Highlanders on their left,
flung down pantingly into such cover as they could
Kentucky and Pug had struggled along to-
gether, and sought shelter from the storming bul-
lets in the same deep shell hole. Three minutes
later an officer crawled over the edge and tumbled
in after them. He was wounded, the blood
FOEWAED OBSEEVING 187
streaming from a broken hand^ a torn thigh^ and
a bnllet wound in the ned^.
**One of you will have to go back,*' he said
faintly; "I can't go further. You, Lee,*' and he
nodded at Kentucky; **d'you think you can take a
message through to the gunners f
**Why, sure,'' said Kentucky, promptly.
** Leastways, I can try."
So the officer crawled to the edge of the pit
and pointed to where, amongst some scattered
mounds of earth, they had located the nest of ma-
chine guns. Then he pointed the direction Ken-
tucky must take to find the Forward Observing
Officer of Artillery. ** About a hundred yards be-
hind that last trench we were in, ' ' said the officer.
* * Look, you can see a broken bit of gray wall. Get
back to there if you can, and tell the officer where
these machine guns are. Tell him they're holding
us up and the CO. wants him to turn every gun
he can on there and smash them up. Take all the
cover you can. You can see it's urgent we get the
message through, and I don't know where any of
the regular runners are."
**Eight, sir," said Kentucky; /^I'U get it
through." He nodded to Pug, ^^S'long, Pug," and
Pug nodded back, **So long, Kentuck. Goo'
188 GEAPES OF WEATH
lucf Kentucky scrambled from the hole and
went off, crouching and dodging and running. No
other man was showing above ground, and as he
ran he felt most horribly lonely and appallingly
exposed. He took what cover he could, but had
to show himself above ground most of the time,
because he gained little in safety and lost much
in time by jumping in and out of the shell holes.
So he skirted the larger ones and ran on, and came
presently to the line of Anzacs waiting to support.
He hardly waited to answer the eager questions
they threw him, but hurried on, crossed the
ruined fragments of the old trench, found pres-
ently a twisted shallow gully that appeared to ruh
in the direction he wanted, ducked into it> and
pushed on till he came almost abreast of the gray
wall. He had to cross the open again to come to
it, and now, with a hazy idea that it would be a
pity to fail now, took infinite precautions to crawl
and squirm from hole to hole, and keep every scrap
of cover he could. He reached the wall at last
and crept round it, exulting in his success. He
looked round for the officer — ^and saw no one. A
shock of amazement, of dismay, struck him like a
blow. He had struggled on with the one fixed
idea so firmly in his mind, looking on the gray wall
FORWARD OBSERVING 189
so definitely as his goal, measuring the distance to
it, counting the chances of reaching it, thioking no
further than it and the deUvery of his message
there, that for a moment he felt as lost, as helpless
as if the sun had vanished at noon. He was just
recovering enough to be beginning to curse his
luck and wonder where he was to look f 6r the lost
officer when a loud voice made him jump. * * Sec-
tion fire ten seconds, ' ' it said, and a moment later
a hollow and muffled voice repeated tonelessly:
** Section fire ten seconds.'' Kentucky looked
round him. A dead man sprawled over the edge
of a shell hole, a boot and leg protruded from be-
hind some broken rubble, but no living man was in
sight, although the voices had sounded almost el-
** Hullo," said Kentucky loudly. ** Artillery.
Where are you, sirf
* * Hullo, ' ' answered the voice. * * Who is there t ' '
and from a tumbled pile of sandbags at the end
of the broken wall a head was cautiously raised.
"Do you want me? Keep down out of sight. I
don't want this place spotted."
Kentucky was creeping carefully towards him
when a sepulchral voice from underground some-
190 GRAPES OF WRATH
where made him jmnp. * * Beg pardon, sir. Didn 't
catch that last order, sir.''
**A11 right, Ridley,'' said the oflScer. *^I was
talking to some one up here"; and to Kentucky,
Kentucky gave his message briefly. *^ Right,"
said the officer, pulling out a soiled map. * * Come
along beside me here,' and see if you can point the
spot from here. Careful now. Keep down. If
they spot this for an Oh Pip^ they'll shell us oflf
The officer was a young man, although under the
mask of dirt and mud splashes and unshaven chin
he might have been any age. He was sprawled
against a broken-down breastwork of f aUen bricks
and timber, with a rough strengthening and but-
tressing of sandbags, and an irregular shaped
opening opposite his head to look out from. Ken-
tucky sidled to the opening and looked long and
carefully for landmarks on the smoke-clouded
ground before him. He found the task difficult,
because here he was on slightly higher ground,
from which the aspect appeared utterly diflFerent
to the little he had seen of it from below. But at
lasit he was able to trace more or less the points
*0.P. Observation Post
FOEWAED OBSEEVING 191
over which he had passed, to see some of the An-
zacs crouching in their cover and moving cau-
tiously about behind it, and from that to locate the
Stonewalls ^ position and the rough earth heaps —
which now he could see formed part of an irregu-
lar line of trench — ^where the machine-guns were
supposed to be. He pointed the place out to the
officer, who looked carefully through his glasses,
consulted his map, looked out again.
** Likely enough spot,'^ he commented. **It's
been well strafed with shell fire already, but I
suppose they have their guns down in deep dug-
outs there. Anyhow, we '11 give 'em another going
over. Eidley I ' '
* ^ Sir, * ' answered the voice from below. * * Stop.
Fresh target. Machine-guns in trench. All
guns. . . . ' ' and followed a string of orders about
degrees and yards which Kentucky could not fol-
low. **Now you watch the spot,'' said the officer
when the voice had reported **A11 ready, sir," and
he had settled himself in position with glasses to
his eyes. * * Watch and see if the shells land about
the place you think the guns are. ' ' He passed an
order to fire, and a few seconds later said sharply,
*^There! See them!"
But Kentucky had not seen them, and had ,to
192 GRAPES OF WRATH
confess it. Or rather he had not seen these par-
ticular bursts to be sure of them, because the
whole air was puffing and spurting with black
smoke and white smoke and yellowish smoke.
^^They were a bit left and beyond where I
wanted 'em/* said the officer. **We'll try again.
I *m firing four guns together. Look for four white
smoke bursts in a bunch somewhere above your
earth heaps. *'
**See themr* ^*I got 'em,'* exclaimed the offi-
cer and Kentucky simultaneously a moment later.
Kentucky was keyed up to ao excited elation.
This was a new game to him, and he was enjoying
it thoroughly. He thought the four bursts were
exactly over the spot required, but the more
experienced observer was not so satisfied, and
went on feeling for his target with another couple
of rounds before he was content. But then he
called for high explosive, and proceeded to deluge
the distant trench with leaping smoke clouds,
flashes of fire, and whirlwinds of dust and earth.
Kentucky watched the performance with huge
satisfaction, and began to regret that he had not
joined the artillery. It was so much better, he
concluded, to be snugly planted in a bit of cover
calling orders to be passed back per telephone and
FORWAED OBSEEVING 193
watching the shells play on their target. He was
soon to find that this was not quite all the ganners '
business. He ducked suddenly back from the
lookout as a shower of bullets threshed across the
ground, swept up to the broken wall, and hailed
rattling and lashing on and round it. The hail
continued for some seconds and stopped suddenly.
**Some beast out there,'' said the officer reflec-
tively, ^*has his suspicions of this spot. That's
the third dose I Ve had in the last half -hour. Ma-
He went on with his firing, watching through
his glass and shouting corrections of aim to the
signaler below if a gun went off its target. An-
other shower of bullets clattered against the
stones, and two spun ricocheting and shrieking
through the loophole. Kentucky began to think
observing was hardly the safe and pleasant job he
had uWned. "AfrL my UtUe ei^hteen-poLder
pills won't make enough impression there, if
they're in dug-outs," said the officer. "Think I'll
go 'n ask the Brigade to turn the Heavies on to that
lot. If you're going back you can tell your CO.
I'm fixing it all right, and we'll give 'em a good
hammering. ' '
A shell shrieked up and burst dose overhead.
194 GRAPES OF WEATH
followed in quick succession by another and an-
** Better wait a bit before you start/' said the
Forward OflBicer. ** Looks as if they might be
making it hot round here for a bit. Come along
below while I talk to the Brigade. Carefully now.
Don't let 'em spot you."
The two crawled back, and then dived down a
steep stair into a deep dug-out. Close to the en-
trance a telephonist sat on the ground with an in-
strument beside him. The oflScer squatted beside
him and worked the *^ buzzer" for a minute, and
then explained the situation to whoever was at
the other end.
^'That's aU right," he said at the finish. *'The
Heavies are going to hot 'em a bit You'd better
wait a little longer, ' ' he continued, as the dug-out
quivered to a muffled crash somewhere above them.
* ^They're still pasting us. I'm going up to ob-
serve for tiie Heavies," he said, turning to the
signaler. **You just pass my orders back and
the battery will put them through. ' '
He disappeared up the narrow stair just as
another heavy shell crashed down. The signaler
set his instrument beside him, lifted the receiver
to his head, and leaned back wearily against the
FORWAED OBSERVING 195
wall. * * Are yon ready, sir f he shouted a moment
later, and faintly the officer's reply came back to
them, "All ready,'' and was repeated into the tele-
phone. A moment later, ** Fired, sir," the sig-
naler shouted, and after a pause down came the
officer's remarks, to be repeated back word for
Once Kentucky started up the stairs, but on
reaching the open he heard what had failed to
penetrate to the dug-out, the loud whistling
screams of shells, the sharp crack of their over-
head burst, the clash and thump of the flying frag-
ments on the stones and ground. Kentucky came
down the steps again. *^Bit warm up there, ain't
it!" said the signaler, continuing to hold the re-
ceiver to his ear, but placing his hand over the
mouthpiece in speaking to Kentucky.
** Mighty warm," said Kentucky. **I don't
fancy your officer's job up top there in the open."
The signaler yawned widely. "He's the second
to-day, ' ' he said. * ^ One expended to date — ^bit o '
shrap — Skilled straight out"
"You look kind of tuckered out," said Ken-
tucky, looking at the man. " I 'm nex ' door to doin '
the sleep-walkin' act," said the signaler. He
passed another order. "We bin shootin' like mad
196 aEAPES OF WEATH
for a week. Not too much sleep, going all the
time, an^ I 'aven't shut my eyes since yesterday
morning. ' '
Another shell hit the gronnd close outside, and
some fragments of stone and dirt pattered down
** Can't say I like this,'* said Kentucky rest-
lessly. ^*If a shell plunked into that entrance or
bust it in where 'd we be f
*^ That's easy,'* said the telephonist. **We'd
be here, an' likely to stay here," and raised his
voice again to shout a message to the officer.
They sat another five minutes with the walls
shivering slightly or quaking violently as the
shells fell close or at a distance. The telephonist
sat apparently half -asleep, his eyes vacant, and his
shoulders rounded, his voice raised at times to
shout to the Forward Officer, sunk again to a
monotonous drawl repeating the officer's words
into the telephone. Once he glanced at Kentucky
and spoke briefly. **Why don't you get down to
it an' 'ave a kip I" he said. And when Kentucky
said he didn't feel particularly sleepy, and any-
how must move along in five or ten minutes, *^My
Gawd," said the telephonist; **not sleepy! An'
missin ' a chance for ten minutes ' kip. My Gawd ! ' '
FORWARD OBSERVING 197
When the shelling appeared to have slackened
Kentucky crawled np the stair, and after a word
with the oflBicer set out on his return journey.
Ahead where he judged the German position to he
he could see a swirling cloud of dirty smoke, torn
asunder every moment hy quick-following flashes
and springing fountains of earth and more belch-
ing smoke-clouds that towered upward in thick
spreading columns, and thinned and rolled out-
ward again to add still further to the dirty reek.
The earth shook to the clamorous uproar of the
guns, the air pulsed to the passage of countless
shells, their many-toned but always harsh and
strident shriekings. The greater weight of metal
was from the British side, hut as he hurried for-
ward, stumbling and slipping over the wet and
broken ground, Kentucky heard every now and
then the rush and crash of German shells bursting
near him. The rolling, pealing thunder of the
guns, the thuds and thumps and hangings of their
and their shells' reports, were so loud and so sus-
tained that they drowned the individual sounds of
approaching shells, and several times Kentucky
was only aware of their burst on seeing the black
spout of earth and smoke, on hearing the flying
198 GRAPES OF WRATH
fragments sing and whine dose past or thnd into
the wet ground near him.
He toiled on and came at last to an enormous
shell crater in which a full dozen of the Anzacs
squatted or stood. He halted a moment to speak
to them, to ask how things were going. He
found he had come through the main Anzac line
without knowing it, so broken and uptom was the
ground, and so well were the men concealed in the
deeper scattered holes. This dozen men were well
in advance and close up on the line which held the
Stonewalls and which they were supporting.
**Your mob is just about due to slam at 'em
again, mate,'' said a sergeant, looking at his wrist-
watch. ** You'd better hustle some if you want to
go to it along wi' yer own cobbers. There goes the
guns liftin' now. Time, gentlemen, please," and
he snapped down the cover of his watch and stood
to look out.
Kentucky climbed out and ran on. The
thunder of the guns had not ceased for an instant,
but the fire-flashes and spurting smoke clouds no
longer played about the same spot as before.
The guns had lifted their fire and were pouring
their torrent of shells further back behind tiie spot
marked for assault. Now, as Kentucky knew well.
FORWARD OBSERVING 199
was the designed moment for the attack, and he
looked every moment to see a line of figures rise
and move f orwisird. But he saw nothing except the
tumhled sea of broken ground, saw no sign of ris-
ing men, no sign of movement. For full two or
three minutes he hunted for the Stonewalls, for
the line he wanted to rejoin; and for those pre-
cious minutes no beat of rifle fire arose, no hail of
bullets swept the ground over which the attack
should pass. Then a machine gun somewhere in
the haze ahead began to chatter noisily, and,
quickly, one after another joined it and burst into
a streaming fire that rose rapidly to a steady and
unbroken roar. Shells began to sweep and crash
over the open too, and Kentucky ducked down into
a deep shell-hole for cover.
** What's gone wrong f he wondered. **They
were sure meant to start in when the guns lifted,
and they'd have been well across by this. Now
the Boche machine-gunners have had time to haul
the guns from their dug-outs and get busy. What's
wrong I Surely the battalion hasn't been clean
He peered cautiously over the edge of his hole,
but still he saw no sign of movement. He was
completely puzzled. Something was wrong, but
200 GRAPES OP WEATH
what? The Anzacs had told him the attack was
due, and those lifting guns had backed their
word. And yet there was no attack. He waited
for long minutes — ^minutes empty of attack, empty
of sign, empty of everything except the raving
machine guns and the storming bullets.
A YIIiLAGE AND A HELMET
Kentucky decided that it was as useless as it was
unnecessary for him to remain alone in his ex-
posed position, and forthwith proceeded to crawl
back to where he knew that at least he would find
some one. So, keeping as low as possible, he
started back, dodging from shell hole to shell hole.
In about the fourth one he came to he found a
group of several men, all dead, and plainly killed
by the one low-bursting shell. He could see that
they were Stonewalls, too, and began to wonder if
the reason for his failing to find the line was the
simple one that the line no longer existed. It was
a foolish supposition perhaps, but men are prone
to such after long day and night strain in a hot
action, are even more prone to it under such cir-
cumstances as brought Kentucky to this point of
crouching on the edge of a shell-hole with sudden
death whistling and crashing and thundering in his
ears, spread horribly under his eyes. He shivered,
202 GRAPES OF WRATH
skirted round the pit, and over into the next one,
just as another man stepped crouching over its
edge. Kentucky saw him, and with a sense of
enormous relief recognized him too as one of the
Stonewalls* oflScers. Here at last was some one
he knew, some one who knew him, some one who
would tell him perhaps what had happened, would
certainly tell him what to do, give him simple or-
ders to be simply obeyed. The officer was a boy
with a full quarter less years to his age than Ken-
tucky himself had, -& lad who in normal life would
probably still have been taking orders from a
schoolmaster, who certainly, instead of giving,
would have been taking orders or advice from a
man his equal in education, more than his equal in
age and worldliness, as Kentucky was. And yet
Kentucky saw him with something of the relief a
lost child would feel to meet his mother, and the
officer was as natural in giving his orders as if
Kentucky were the child. There is nothing un-
usual in all this. I only mention it because its very
usualness is probably odd to any one outside the
Service, and is likely to be little realized by them.
**I'm mighty glad to see you, sir,*' said Ken-
tucky. '*I thought I'd clean lost the battalion.'*
*'The battalion's strung out along here," said
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 203
the officer. ^^Bnt I'm just passing along orders to
retire a little on the supporting line behind us. So
just push along back, and pass the word to do the
same to any of ours you run across/' He moved
on without further word, and Kentucky continued
his rearward journey. He was aiming for the
same lot of men he had passed through on his way
forward, but in the broken litter of ground missed
them, and instead ran on another group of half a
dozen sheltering in another deep shell crater. He
explained to them that in obedience to orders he
had retired to join their line.
**Well, you got to keep on retiring mate,'* said
one of them sulkily, *4f you're going to hitch in
with us. We just got the office too that we're to
take the back track."
**Hope it's all right," said another doubtfully.
^^ Seems so dash crazy to push up here and then
go back for nix."
**That Curly 's such a loose-tiled kid, he might
easy have mistook the order," said another.
** Anyway," said the first, **this bloke says 'im
an' 'is cobbers is hittin' out for the back paddods,
'* What's that?" several interrupted simul-
taneously, and moved eagerly to the crater edge.
204 GRAPES OF WEATH
Clear through the rolling rifle and gan-fire came a
shrill **Coo-ee,'' and then another and another,
louder and nearer. Kentucky scrambled to the
edge with the others and looked out. Down to
their right they could see figures climbing out of
shell holes, starting up from the furrows, moving
at the run forward, and again they heard the shrill
'^coo-ee's'' and a confusion of shouts and calls.
Kentucky saw the half-dozen Anzacs scrambling
from their hole like scared cats going over a fence,
scuffling and jostling in their haste, heard them
shouting and laughing like children going to a
school treat. '^Come on, mates . . . nix on the
back track . . . play up, Anzacs. . . .^' For a
moment Kentucky was puzzled. He had plain or-
ders to retire to the support line. **Come on,^
cully," shouted the last man out, looking back at
him — ^but if the support line was advancing —
**• . . your bunch is mixin' it with us." He paused
to catch up and fling along the line the coo-ee that
came ringing down again, hitched his rifle for-
ward, and doubled off after the others. Kentucky
climbed out and followed him. At first the whistle
and shriek and snap-snap of bullets was continu-
ous, and it seemed impossible that he should con-
tinue without being hit, that each step he took
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 205
must be the last. He wondered where the bullet
would hit him, whether it would hurt much,
whether he would have to wait long for the
stretcher-bearers. He slackened his pace at sight
of an Anzac officer rolling on the ground, cough-
ing and spitting up frothy blood. But the Anzac
saw his pause, and gathered strength to wave him
on, to clear his choking throat and shout thickly to
**Go on, boy; go on. I^m all right. Give 'em hell.'*
Kentucky ran on. The bullets were fewer now,
although the roar of firing from in front seemed
to grow rather than slacken. His breath came
heavily. The ground was rough and killingly
slippery. He was nearly done up; but it was
crazy to slow down there in the open ; must keep
on. He caught up one of the groups in front and
ran with them. They were shouting . . . where
did they get the wind to shout . . . and how much
further was it to the trench? Then he saw the men
he ran with begin to lift their rifles and fire or
shoot from the hip as they ran; he saw gray coats
crawling from a dug-Out a dozen yards to his left,
and with a shock realized that there was no trench
to cross, that the shells must have leveled it, that
he was actually into the enemy position. He ran
on, heavily and at a jog-trot, without a thought
206 GRAPES OF WEATH
of where he was rnnning to or why he ran. He
didn't think; merely ran because the others did.
He stopped, too, when they stopped, and began to
fire with them at a little crowd of Germans who
emerged suddenly from nowhere and came charg-
ing down at them. Several Germans fell ; the oth-
ers kept on, and Kentucky saw one of them swing
a stick bomb to throw. Kentucky shot him before
he threw — shot with his nerves suddenly grown
steel strong, his brain cool, his eye clear, his hand
as steady as rock. He shot again and dropped
the man who stooped to pick the bomb that fell
from the other's hand. Then the bomb exploded
amongst them. There were only four standing
when the smoke cleared, and the Anzacs were run-
ning at them with bayonets at the level. There
were only three Anzacs now, but the Germans
threw their hands up. Then when the Anzacs
slowed to a walk and came to within arm's length,
with their bayonet points up, one of the Germans
dropped his hand and flashed out a pistol.
Kentucky shot him before he could fire. He had
not run in with the others, and was a score of
paces away, and one of the Anzacs half-hid the
man with the pistol. But he shot knowing — ^not
believing, or thinking, or hoping, but hnovmg
A VILLAaE AND A HELMET 207
he would kill. It was his day, he was "on his
shoot/' he couldn't miss. The other Gennans
dropped their hands too, but whether to run or
fight — ^the bayonet finished them without a chance
to answer that. **Come on, Deadeye,'' shouted
one of the Anzaos; and when Kentucky joined
them, * * Some shootin % that. I owe you one for it
They went on again, but there was little more
fighting. Anyhow, Kentucky didn't fight. He
just shot ; and whatever he shot at he hit, as surely
and certainly as Death itself. There were a great
many dead Germans lying about, and the ground
was one churned heap of broken earth and shell-
holes. They came suddenly on many men in khaki, *
walking about and shouting to each other. Then
a Stonewall corporal met him and pointed to
where the Stonewalls were gathering, and told
him he had better go join them, and Kentucky
trudged off towards them feeling all of a sudden
most desperately tired and done up, and most hor-
ribly thirsty. The first thing he asked when he
reached the Stonewalls was whether any one had
a drop of water to spare; and then he heard a
shout, a very glad and cheery shout that brought
208 GRAPES OF WEATH
a queer, wann glow to his heart, ^^Kentuckl Hi,
*'Pug,''hesaid. * ' Oh, y on, Pug ! My, but I'm
glad to see you again, boy. ' '
They talked quickly, telling in snatches what
had happened to each since they separated, and
both openly and whole-heartedly glad to be to-
**I got a helmet, Kentuck,*' said Pug joyfully,
and exhibited his German helmet with pride.
**Tole you I'd get a good 'un, didn't If An' I
downed the cove that 'ad it meself. We potted
at each other quite a bit — 'im or me for it — ^an'
I downed 'im^ an' got 'is 'elmet."
Now the capture of the village was a notable
feat of arms which was duly if somewhat briefly
chronicled in the General Headquarters dispatch
of the day with a line or two enumerating the
depth and front of the advance made, the prison-
ers and material taken. The war correspondents
have described the action more fully and in more
enthusiastic and picturesque language, and the
action with notes of the number of shells fired, the
battalions and batteries employed, and nice clear
explanatory maps of the ground and dispositions
of attackers and defenders will no doubt in due
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 209
course occupy its proper place in the history of
But none of these makes any mention of Pug
and his hehnet, although these apparently played
quite an important part in the operation. Pug
himself never understood his full share in it —
remembered the whole affair as nothing but a
horrible mix-up of noise, mud, bursting shells and
drifting smoke, and his acquirement of a very
fine helmet souvenir. Even when Pug told his
story Kentucky hardly understood all it meant,
only indeed came to realize it when he added to
it those other official and semi-official accounts, his
— ^Kentucky's — own experience, and the mysteri-
ous impulse that he had seen change the Anzacs '
retreat into an attack, into the charge which swept
up the Stonewalls and carried on into and over
the village. To get the story complete as Ken-
tucky came to piece it out and understand it we
must go back and cover Pu^'s doings from the
time Kentucky left him and the others in the shell-
hole to carry the message back to the artillery
After the German counter-attack was caught in
the nick of time and driven back with heavy loss,
at good many of the counter-attackers instead of
210 GRAPES OF WEATH
risking the run back to the shelter of their trench
dropped into shell-holes and craters, and from
here the more determined of them continued to
shoot at any head showing in the British line.
The men of the latter were also scattered along
the broken ground in what at one time had been
the open between two trenches, but was now a bet-
ter position and in its innumerable deep shell cra-
ters offered better cover than the wrecked frag-
ment of a trench behind them. On both sides too
the gunners were ferociously strafing the opposi-
tion trenches, but since they dare not drop their
shells too near to where they knew their own front
lines to be located the tendency on both sides was
for the front line to wriggle and crawl forward
into the zone left uncovered by bursting high-
explosive shells and shrapnel. The German and
British infantry naturally did their best to dis-
courage and make as expensive as possible the
forward movement by the opposition, and indus-
triously sniped with rifle and machine gun any
men who exposed themselves for a moment But
when the counter-attack fell back Pug was for
some minutes too busily engaged in helping to
bandage up a badly wounded man to pay much
attention to what the Germans were doing. When
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 211
the job was completed he raised his head and
looked out of the shell hole where he and the oth-
ers were sheltering and peered ronnd through the
drifting smoke haze. He caught dim sight of some
moving figures and raised his voice lustily.
* ' Stretche-e-er ! ^ ' he shouted, and after waiting
a minute, again * * Stre-tche-e-er I ' * Amidst all the
uproar of battle it is not probable that his
voice had a carrying power of more than scanty
yards, but when no stretcher-bearers immediately
materialized in answer to his call Pug appeared
a good deal annoyed. "Wot d^you s^pose them
blanky bearers is doin'f he grumbled, then
raised his voice and bawled again. He shouted
and grumbled alternately for a few minutes with
just the growing sense of annoyance that a man
feels when he whistles for a taxi and no taxi ap-
pears. Two or three times he ducked instinctively
at a hiss of a close bullet and once at the **Cr-r-
ump'^ of a falling shell and the whistle of its flying
splinters, and when he stood to shout he took care
to keep well down in his shell hole, raising no
more than his head above its level to allow his
voice to carry above ground. Apparently, al-
though he thought it unpleasantly risky to be
above ground there, and in no way out of place
212 GRAPES OF WEATH
for him not to expose himself, he took it quite for
granted that stretcher-bearers would accept all
the risk and come running to his bellowings. But
in case it be thought that he expected too much,
it ought to be remembered that it is the stretcher-
bearers themselves who are responsible for such
high expectations. Their salving of broken bod-
ies from out the maelstrom of battle, their desper-
ate rescues under fire, their readiness to risk the
most appalling hazards, their indifference to
wounds and death, their calm undertaking of im-
possibly difficult jobs, these very doings which by
their constant performance have been reduced to
no more than the normal, have come to be accepted
as the matter-of-fact ordinary routine business of
the stretcher-bearers. Pug, in fact, expected them
to come when he called, only because he had seen
them scores of times answer promptly to equally
or even more risky calls.
And the stretcher-bearers in this instance did
not fail him. A couple appeared looming hazily
through the smoke, and at another call labored
heavily over the broken ground to him. They
saw the wounded man before Pug had time to
make any explanation of his call, and without
stopping to waste words, slid over the edge of the
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 213
crater, dropped the stretcher in position beside
the wonnded man, ran a quick, workmanlike glance
and touch over the first field-dressings on him,
had him on the stretcher and hoisted up out of
the hole all well inside a couple of minutes.
Pug returned to his own particular business,
and settling himself against the sloping wall of
the crater nearest the Germans took a cautious
survey of the ground before him. At first he saw
nothing but the rough, chumed-up surface and a
filmy curtain of smoke through which the resum-
ing British bombardment was again beginning to
splash fountains of shell-flung reek and dust. But
as he looked a figure appeared, came forward at
a scrambling run for a score of paces and dropped
out of sight into some hole. At first sight of him
Pug had instinctively thrust forward his rifle
muzzle and snapped off a quick shot, but the man
had run on apparently without taking any notice
of it. Pug was a fair enough shot to feel some
annoyance. * * D ' jer see that f he asked his neigh-
bor. ** Beggar never even ducked; an' I'll bet I
didn't go far off an inner on 'im." The neighbor
was taking a long and careful sight over the edge
of the pit. He fired, and without moving his rifle
gazed earnestly in the direction he had shot
214 * GRAPES OF WEATH
*'Wot's tliat, Pugf lie said at last, jerking out
the empty shell and reloading. **Who ducked?
Ah, would yer I * ' he exclaimed hastily, and pumped
out a rapid clipful of rounds. Pug joined in with
a couple of shots and the dodging figures they
had shot at vanished suddenly. *'Wot's their
game now, I wonder, '' said Pug. *'D*you think
they^re edgin^ in for another rushf^' He had
raised himself a little to look out, but the venom-
ous hisS'Zizz of a couple of bullets dose past his
head made him bob down hurriedly.
** You gotter look out,'' said the other man. ** A
lot o' blighters didn't bolt when we cut up their
attack. They just dropped into any hole that
come handy, an' they're lyin' there snipin' pot
shots at any one that shows."
Pug banged oflf a shot, jerked the breech open
and shut and banged off another. ** See that," he
said. **Same bloke I potted at afore. Not 'arf
a cheeky blighter either. Keeps jumpin' up an'
runnin' in to'ards us. But you wait till nex' time
— ^I'U give 'im run." He settled himself nicely
with elbow-rest, wide sprawled legs, and braced
feet, and waited with careful eye on his sights
and coiled finger about the trigger. Two minutes
he waited, and then his rifle banged again, and
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 215
he exclaimed delightedly, **I gottim, chum. I got-
tim that time. See 'im flop?'* But his exclama-
tion changed to one of angry disgust as he saw the
man he supposed he had **gof rise from behind
his cover, beckon vigorously to some one behind
him, and move forward again another few steps.
Pug blazed another shot at him, and in response
the man, in the very act of dropping to cover,
stopped, straightened up, and after staring in
Pug's direction for a moment, turned, and lifting
the helmet from his head repeated the beckoning
motion he had made before.
*^Well of all the blinkin' cheek,'' said Pug
wrathf uUy ; * * take that, you cow, ' ' firing again.
**Wot's up?" said his companion. **Is some
bloke stringin' you I"
**Fair beats me," said the exasperated Pug.
**IVe 'ad half a dozen clean shots at 'im, an' 'e
just laughs at 'em. But I've marked the last
place 'e bogged down into, an' if 'e just pokes a
nose out once more, 'e'U get it in the neck for
** Where is 'ef" said the interested chum;
**show us, an' I'll drop it acrost 'im too when 'e
* * No, ' ' said Pug firmly, * * fair dinkum. 'E 's my
216 GRAPES OF WEATH
own private little lot, an' I'm goin' to see 'im
safely 'ome myself, S-steady now, 'ere 'e comes
again. Just 'avin' a look out, eh Fritz. Orright,
m' son. Keep on lookin' an' it'll meet yer optio —
plunk," and he fired. ** Missed again," he said
sadly as he saw a spurt of mud flick from the
edge of the German's cover. **But lumme, chum,
di'jer see the 'ehnet that bloke 'ad!" The Ger-
man it may be remembered had drawn attention
to his helmet by taking it off and waving it, but
Pug at that moment had been too exasperated loff
the impudence of the man's exposure to notice the
helmet. But this time a gleam of light caught
the heavy metal ** chin-strap " that hung from it,
and although the helmet itself was covered witK
the usual service cover of gray cloth. Pug could
see distinctly that it was one of the old pickel-
hauben type—one of the kind he so greatly cov-
eted as a * * souvenir. ' '
* * That settles it, ' ' said Pug firmly. * * I 'm goin '
to lay for that bloke till I gets 'im, an' then when
we advance I'll 'ave 'is 'elmet."
He lay for several minutes, watching the spot
where the German was concealed as a cat watches
a mouse-hole, and when his patience was rewarded
by a glimpse of gray uifif orm he took steady aim.
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 217
carefully squeezed the trigger until he felt the
faint chec^ of its second pull-off, held his breath,
and gave the final squeeze, all in exact accordance
with the school of musketry instructions. The
patch of gray vanished, and Pug could not tell
whether he had scored a hit, but almost immedi-
ately he saw the spike and rounded top of the hel-
met lift cautiously into sight. Again Pug took
slow and deliberate aim but then hesitated,
**Tchick-tchicked** softly between his teeth, aimed
again and fired. The helmet vanished with a jerk.
*'Lookin' over the edge of 'is 'ole, *e was," said
Pug. **An^ at first I didn't like to shoot for fear
of spoilin' that 'elmet. But arter all,'' he con-
ceded cheerfully, **I dunno' that it wouldn't may-
be improve it as a fust-class sooven-eer to 'ave a
neat little three-oh-three 'ole drilled in it."
*'Did you drill it!" asked his companion di-
*' Dunno," admitted Pug, "but I'm keepin' a
careful eye on 'im, an' I'll soon know if 'e moves
again. ' '
But in the process of keeping a careful eye Pug
was tempted for an instant into keeping a less
careful head under cover than the situation de-
manded. A bullet leaped whutt past within an
218 GRAPES OF WEATH
inch of his ear and lie dropped flat to earth with
an oath. **That was 'im,^' he said, **I saw the
flash of Is rifle. Looks like 'e^s got me piped oflf,
an^ it's goin' to be 'im or me for it."
Chick and another man in the same hole had
been bnsy shooting at any mark that presented,
but when their every appearance above gronnd
began to be greeted by an unpleasantly close bul-
let, they ceased to fire and squatted back in the
hole to watch Pug and the conducting of his duel.
A dozen times he and the German fired, each
drawing or returning instant shot for shot. Pug
moving from one spot to another in the shell cra-
ter, pushing his rifle out slowly, lifting his head
cautiously an inch at a time.
Over their heads the great shells shrieked and
rushed, round them crackled a spattering rifle fire,
the occasional hammering of a machine gun, the
rolling crash and whirr of bursting shells and fly-
ing splinters. Wide out to right and left of them,
far to their front and rear the roar of battle ran,
long-thundering and unbroken, in a deafening
chorus of bellowing guns, the vibrating rattle of
rifles and machine guns, the sharp detonations
and reports of shells and bombs and grenades.
But Pug and, in lesser degree, his companions.
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 219
were quite heedless of all these things, of how the
battle moved or stayed stilL For them the strag-
gle had boiled down into the solitary duel between
Pug and his German ; the larger issues were for
the moment completely overshadowed, as in war
they so often are, by the mere individual and
personal ones. Pug insisted in finishing off his
duel single-handed, declining to have the others
there interfere in it. **It^s 'im or me for it," he
repeated, **fair dinkum. An* I^m goin* to get 'im
and 'is 'elmet on my blinMn* own."
He decided at last to move his position, to
crawl along and try to catch his opponent in flank,
to stalk his enemy as a hunter stalks a lidden
buck. Since he could not escape from the crater
they were in without exposing himself to that
watchful rifle, he scraped down with his entrench-
ing tool a couple of feet of the rim of the crater
where it formed a wall dividing off another crater.
When he had cleared the passage he came back
and fired another shot, just to keep his enemy
watching in the same spot for him, and hurriedly
crawled over into the next crater, squirmed and
wriggled away from it along cracks and holes and
folds of the torn and tumbled ground in a direc-
tion that he reckoned would allow him to readi the
220 GRAPES OF WRATH
German sheltering in his hole and behind a broken
hillock of earth. But before he reached such a
position as he desired he found himself looking
over into a deep crater occupied by an officer and
half a dozen men with a machine gun.
The officer looked up and caught sight of him.
** Hullo, Sneath/' he said. ** Where are you off
to! You're moving the wrong way, aren't you!
The order was to retire, and you're moving for-
Pug wriggled over into the crater and crouched
puffing and blowing for a moment. **I 'adn't
'eard nothin' about retiring, sir," he said doubt-
* * That 's the order, ' ' said the officer briskly. * * I
don't know what it means any more than you do,
but there it is. You'd better wait now and move
back with us."
Pug was annoyed — exceedingly annoyed. This
retirement looked like losing him his duel, and
what was more, losing him his coveted helmet.
Eetirement was a thing he had not for an insta?'*'
calculated upon. He had taken it quite^'fcK?
granted that if he could slay the wearer of the
helmet, the helmet was his, that he had only to
wait until the line advanced to go straight to it
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 221
and pick it up. With a vague idea that he would
have managed the affair much better on his own,
without these interfering directions of his move-
ments, he began to wish he had never come across
this officer, and from that passed to wondering
whether he couldn't give the officer the slip and
finish off his program in his own way.
At that moment the British artillery fire re-
doubled in intensity and the rush of shells over-
head rose to a roaring gale.
** Sharp there,'' said the officer. **Get that gun
picked up. Now's our chance to get back while
the guns are socking it into 'em. ' '
He was right, of course, and their chances of
retirement were likely to be improved by the heav-
ier covering fire. Pug was also right in a half-
formed idea that had come to him — ^that the cover-
ing fire would also lessen the risk of a move for-
ward, or as he put it to himself — ^ ' With all them
shells about their ears they'll be too busy keepin'
their heads down to do much shootin' at me if I
' ance a quick rush; an' most likely I'd be on top
o' tnat bloke wi' the 'elmet afore 'e knew it."
The others were picking up the machine gun
and preparing to move, and Pug took a long and
careful look over the edge of the hole to locate his
222 GEAPES OF WBATH
helmet wearer. With a quick exclamation he
snatched the rifle to his shonlder, aimed, and
**That*ll do,'* said the officer sharply turning at
the sound of the shot. ^ ^ Cease firing and get along
hack. ' ' But Pug was gazing hard in the direction
of his shot. " I Ve got 'im, ' * he said triumphantly,
**I'll swear I got *im that time. Showin' a fair
mark 'e was, an' I saw 'im jerk 'an roll when I
** Never mind that," said the officer impatiently.
** There's their rifle fire beginning again. Time
we were out of this. Keep down as well as you
can all of you. Move yourselves now. ' '
The men began to scramble out of the hole,
and in an instant Pug's mind was made up. They
were retiring; so far as he knew the battalion
might be retiring out of the line, out of the battle,
and out of the reach of chances of German hel-
mets. And meantime there was his helmet lying
there waiting to be picked up, lying within a hun-
dred yards of himu '
He climbed up the rear waU of the crater, v
halted and spoke hurriedly to the officer. "I
won't be 'alf a mo', sir," he said. ** Something
there I want to pick up an' bring in," and without
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 223
waiting for any reply tnmed and bolted across
the open towards his helmet. The officer was con-
sumed with a quick gust of anger at such disobedi-
ence. **Here,'' he shouted and scrambled out of
the pit. '*Hi, come back you^*; and as Pug gave
no sign of having heard him, he shouted again
and ran a few paces after him.
And so it was that about a dozen Anzacs rising
sullenly and grumblingly out of a big shell crater
in reluctant obedience to the order to retire, saw
a khaki figure rise into sight and go charging
straight forward towards the enemy, and a second
later the figure of an officer bound into sight and
Two or three of the Anzacs voiced together the
thought that rose to all their minds.
^^Who said retire. . . . What blundering fool
twisted the order . . . retire, Gostrewth, they^re
advancing ... us retire, an' them goin' for-
ward . . ."
To them the position required little thinking
over. They could see some men advancing, and
distinctly see an officer too at that. And how
many more the smoke hid
In an instant they were swarming up and out of
their crater ; there was a wild yell, a shrill * * Coo-
224 GRAPES OF WRATH
ee/' a confused shouting, ** Come on, boys ... at
'em, Anzacs . . . Advance, Australia, *' and the
dozen went plunging off forward. Out to right
and left of them the yell ran like fire through dry
grass, the ooo-ees rose long and shrill; as if by
magic the dead ground sprouted gleaming bayo-
nets and scrambling khaki figures. Every man
who looked saw a ragged and swiftly growing line
surging forward, and every man, asking nothing
more, taking only this plain evidence of advance,
made haste — exactly as Kentucky's companions
made haste — ^to fling into it. Straight at the
flashing rifles and the drifting fog-bank of shell
smoke that marked the German position the shift-
ing wave swept and surged, the men yelling,
shouting and cheering; Bullets beating down upon
them, shells crumpling and smashing amongst
them cut them down by dozens, but neither
halted nor slowed down the charging line. It
poured on, flooded in over the wrecked trenches
and dug-outs, the confused litter of shell holes big
and little, piled earth heaps, occasional fragments
of brickwork and splintered beams that alone re-
mained of the village. The flank attacks that had
been launched a few minutes before and held up
staggering under the ferocious fire that met them.
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 225
found the weight of their opposition suddenly
grow less, took fresh hreath and thrust fiercely in
again, gained a footing, felt the resistance weaken
and bend and break, and in a moment were
through and into the tumbled wreckage of a de-
fense, shooting and stabbing and bayoneting,
bombing the dug-outs, rounding up the prisoners,
pushing on until they came in touch with the swirl-
ing edges of the frontal attack's wave, and joining
them turned and overran the last struggling rem-
nants of the defense. The village was taken ; the
line pushed out beyond it, took firm grip of a
fresh patch of ground, spread swiftly and linked
up with the attack that raged on out to either side
and bit savagely into the crumbling German line.
These wider issues were of course quite beyond
the knowledge or understanding of Pug. He had
come uninjured to the spot where his German lay,
found he was an oflScer and quite dead, snatched
up the helmet that lay beside him, and turned to
hurry back. Only then was he aware of the line
charging and barging down upon him, and under-
standing nothing of why or how it had come there,
noticing only from a glimpse of some faces he
knew that men of his own battalion were in it, he
slipped his arm through the chinstrap of his cap-
226 GRAPES OF WBATH
tured helmet, turned again and ran forward with
the rest. With them he played his part in the final
overrunning of the village — ^the usual confused,
scuffling jumble of a part played by the average
infantry private in an attack, a nightmarish mix-
ture of noise and yelling, of banging rifles^ shat-
tering bomb reports, a great deal of smoke, the
whistle of passing bullets, the crackling snap and
smack of their striking ground and stone, swift
appearance and disappearance of running figures.
He had a momentary vision of men grouped about
a black dug-out mouth hurling grenades down it ;
joined a wild rush with several others on a group
of gray-coated Germans who stood firm even to a
bayonet finisL Scrambling and scuffling down
and up the steep sides of the smaller shell craters,
round the slippery crumbling edges of the larger,
he caught glimpsea-this towards the end-of
scattered groups or trickling lines of white-faced
prisoners with long gray coats flapping about
their ankles, and hands held high over their heads,
being shepherded out towards the British lines by
one or two guards. All these scattered impres-
sions were linked up by many panting, breathless
scrambles over a chaos of torn and broken ground
pocked and pitted with the shell craters set as
A VILLAGE AND A HELMET 227
close as the cells of a broken honeycomb, and
ended with a narrow escape, averted jnst in time
by one of his officers, from firing upon a group of
men — ^part of the flank attadfc as it proved — ^who
appeared mysteriously out of the smoke where
Germans had been firing and throwing stick-gre-
nades a moment before.
Through all the turmoil Pug clung tightly to
his helmet. He knew that there had been a stiff
fight and that they had won, was vaguely pleased
at the comforting fact, and much more distinctly
pleased and satisfied with the possession of his
souvenir. He took the first opportunity when the
line paused and proceeded to sort itself out beyond
the village, to strip the cloth off his prize and
examine it. It was an officer's pickelhaube, re-
splendent in all its glory of glistening black pat-
ent-leather, gleaming brass eagle spread-winged
across its front, fierce spike on top and heavy-
linked chain ** chin-strap*' of shining brass. Pug
was hugely pleased with his trophy, displayed it
pridef uUy and told briefly the tale of his duel with
the late owner. He told nothing of how the secur-
ing of his prize had assisted at the taking of the .
village, for the good reason that he himself did •
228 GRAPES OF WRATH
not know it, and np to then in fact did not even
know that they had taken a village.
He tied the helmet securely to his belt with a
twisted bit of wire, and at the urgent command
of a sweating and mud-bedaubed sergeant pre-
pared to dig. **Are we stoppin' 'ere then!" he
stayed to ask.
** Suppose so/' said the sergeant, ** seeing we Ve
taken our objective and got this village/'
Pug gaped at him, and then looked round won-
deringly at the tossed and tumbled shell-riddled
chaos of shattered earth that was spread about
them. **Got this village," he said. **Limune,
where 's the village then ! ' '
Another man there laughed at him. ** You came
over the top o' it, Pug," he said. ** Don't you re-
member the broken beam you near fell over, back
there a piece! That was a bit o' one o' the houses
in the village. An' d'you see that little bit o' gray
wall there! That's some more o' the village."
Pug looked hard at it. **An' that's the village,
is it, ' ' he said cheerfully. * * Lor ' now, I might 'ave
trod right on top o ' it by accident, or even tripped
over it, if it 'ad been a bit bigger village. You can
: keep it; I'd rather 'ave my 'elmet."
WITH THE TANKS
Soon after Kentucky rejoined them the Stonewalls
were moved forward a little clear of the village
they had helped to take, just as one or two heavy
shells whooped over from the German guns and
dropped crashing on the ground that had been
theirs. The men were spread out along shell holes
and told to dig in for better cover because a bit of
a redoubt on the left flank hadn't been taken and
bullets were falling in enfilade from it.
**I>ig, you cripples/' said the sergeant, "dig in.
Can't you see that if they counter-attack from the
front now you'll get shot in the back while you're
lining the front edge of those shell holes. Get to
it there, you Pug. "
** Shot in the back, linin' the front," said Pug as
the sergeant passed on. * * Is it a conundrum. Ken-
** Sounds sort of mixed," admitted Kentucky.
**But it's tainted some with the truth. That re*
230 GRAPES OF WRATH
doubt is half rear to ns. If another lot comes at
us in front and we get up on the front edge of this
shell hole, there's nothing to stop the redoubt bul-
lets hitting us in the back. Look at that/' he con-
cluded, nodding upward to where a bullet had
smacked noisily into the mud above their heads as
they squatted in the hole.
The two commenced wearily to cut out with
their trenching tools a couple of niches in the sides
of the crater which would give them protection
from the flank. and rear bullets. They made rea-
sonably secure cover and then stayed to watch
a hurricane bombardment that was developing on
the redoubt. '^Goo on the guns,'' said Pug joy-
fully. * * That 's the talk ; smack 'em about. ' '
The gunners ** smacked 'em about" with fifteen
savage minutes ' deluge of light and heavy shells,
blotting out the redoubt in a whirlwind of fire-
flashes, belching smoke clouds and dust haze.
Then suddenly the tempest ceased to play there,
lifted and shifted and fell roaring in a wall of fire
and steel beyond the low slope which the redoubt
With past knowledge of what the lift and the
further barrage meant the two men in the shell-
WITH THE TANKS 231
pit turned and craned their necks and looked out
along the line.
^ ^ There they go, ^ ' said Pug suddenly, and * * At-
tacking round a half-circle,^^ said Kentucky. The
British line was curved in a horse-shoe shape
about the redoubt and the two being out near one
of the points could look back and watch clearly
the infantry attack launching from the center and
half-way round the sides of the horse-shoe. They
saw the khaki figures running heavily, scrambling
round and through the scattered shell holes, and
presently, as a crackle of rifle fire rose and rose
and swelled to a sullen roar with the quick, rhyth-
mic clatter of machine guns beating through it,
they saw also the figures stumbling and falling,
the line thinning and shredding out and wasting
away under the vsdthering fire.
The sergeant dodged along the pit-edge above
them. * * Covering fire, ' ' he shouted, * * at four hun-
dred — slam it in,^' and disappeared. The two
opened fire, aiming at the crest of the slope and
beyond the tangle of barbed wire which alone in-
dicated the position of the redoubt.
They only ceased to fire when they saw the
advanced fringe of the line, of a line by now woe-
fully thinned and weakened, come to the edge of
232 GRAPES OF WBATH
the barbed wire and try to force a way throngh it.
** They 're beat,*' gasped Pug. "They're done
in . . ." and cursed long and bitterly, fingering
nervously at his rifle the while. **Time we rung
in again," said Kentucky. "Aim steady and
pitch 'em well clear of the wire." The two opened
careful fire again while the broken remnants of
the attacking liue ran and hobbled and crawled
back or into the cover of shell holes. A second
wave flooded out in a new assault, but by now the
German artillery joining in helped it and the new
line was cut down, broken and beaten back before
it had covered half the distance to the entangle-
ments. Kentucky and Pug and others of the
Stonewalls near them could only curse helplessly
as they watched the tragedy and plied their rifles
in a slender hope of some of their bullets finding
those unseen loopholes and embrasures.
* * An ' wot 's the next item o ' the program, I won-
der! " said Pug half an hour after the last attack
had failed, half an hour filled with a little shoot-
ing, a good deal of listening to the pipe and whis-
tle of overhead bullets and the rolling thunder of
the guns, a watching of the shells falling and
spouting earth and smoke on the defiant redoubt.
" Reinforcements and another butt-in at it, I
WITH THE TANKS 233
expect,'' surmised Kentucky. ** Don't see any-
thing else for it. Looks like this pimple-on-the-
map of a redoubt was holdin' up any advance on
this front. Anyhow I'm not hankering to go
pushin' on with that redoubt bunch shootin'
holes in my back, which they'd surely do."
**Wot's all the buzz about be'ind usf " said Pug
suddenly, raising himself for a quick look over the
covering edge of earth behind him, and in the act
of dropping again stopped and stared with raised
eyebrows and gaping mouth.
*^What is it?" said Kentucky quickly, and also
rose, and also stayed risen and staring in amaze-
ment. Towards them, lumbering and roUing, dip-
ping heavily into the shell holes, heaving clumsily
out of them, moving with a motion something be-
tween that of a half-sunken ship and a hamstrung
toad, striped and banded and splashed from head
to foot, or, if you prefer it, from fo'c'sl-head to
cutwater, with splashes of lurid color, came His
Majesty's Land Ship **Here We Are."
^^OtoT'Strewthl'^ ejaculated Pug. *^Wha-what
Kentucky only gasped.
** 'Ere," said Pug hurriedly, "let's gerrout o'
234 GRAPES OF WBATH
this. It's comin' over atop of ns," and lie com-
menced to scramble clear.
Bnt a light of understanding was dawning on
Kentucky's face and a wide grin growing on his
lips. **It's one of the Tanks," he said, and giggled
aloud as the Here We Are dipped her nose and
slid head first into a huge shell crater in ludicrous
likeness to a squat bull-pup sitting back on its
haunches and dragged into a hole: **I've heard
lots about 'em, but the seein' beats all the hearin'
by whole streets," and he and Pug laughed aloud
together as the Here We Are's face and gun-port
eyes and bent-elbow driving gear appeared above
the crater rim in still more ridiculous resemblance
to an amazed toad emerging from a rain-barrel.
The creature lumbered past them, taking in its
stride the narrow trench dug to link up the shell
holes, and the laughter on Kentucky's lips died to
thoughtfully serious lines as his eye caught the
glint of fat, vicious-looking gun muzzles peering
from their ports.
**Haw haw haw," guffawed Pug as the monster
lurched drunkenly, checked and steadied itself
with one foot poised over a deep hole, halted and
backed away, and edged nervously round the rim
of the hole. **See them machine guns pokin' out,
WITH THE TANKS 235
Kentucky,*' he continued delightedly. **They
won ^t *arf pepper them Huns when they gets near
enough. ' *
Fifty yards in the wake of the Here We Are
a line of men followed up until an officer halted
them along the front line where Pug and Kentucky
**You blokes just takin* 'im out for an airin'f
Pug asked one of the newcomers. ** Oughtn't
you to *ave 'im on a leadin' string f
**Here we are, Here we are again,*' chanted the
other and giggled spasmodically. **An' ain't he
just hot stuff! But wait till you see 'im get to
work with his sprinklers. ' '
''Does 'e bite!" asked Pug, grinning joyously.
** Oughtn't you to 'ave 'is muzzle onf "
''Bite," retorted another. "He's a bloomin'
Hun-eater. Jes' gulps 'em whole, coal-scuttle 'ats
"He's a taed," said another. "A loUopin, flat-
nosed, splay-fittit, ugly puddock, wi's hin' legs
stuck oot whaur .his front should be. ' '
"Look at 'im, oh look at 'im ... he's alive,
lad, nobbut alive." . . . "Does every bloomin'
thing but talk." . . . "Skatin' he is now, skatrn'
236 GRAPES OF WBATH
on 'is oflF hind leg, ' ' came a chorus of delighted
*^Is he goin' to waltz in and take that redoubt
on his ownsumf ^' asked Kentucky. **No/' some
one told him. *^We give him ten minutes' start
and then follow on and pick up the pieces, and the
prisoners. ' '
They lay there laughing and joking and
watching the uncouth antics of the monster wad-
dling across the shell-riddled ground, cheering
when it appeared to trip and recover itself,
cheering when it floundered sideways into a hole
and crawled out again, cheering most wildly of all
when it reached the barbed-wire entanglements,
waddled through, bursting them apart and trailing
them in long tangles behind it, or trampling
them calmly under its diurning caterpillar-wheel-
bands. It was little wonder they cheered and less
wonder they laughed. The Here We Are's mo-
tions were so weirdly alive and life-like, so play-
fully ponderous, so massively ridiculous, that it
belonged by nature to nothing outside a Drury
Lane Panto. At one moment it looked exactly
like a squat tug-boat in a heavy cross sea or an
ugly tide-rip, lurching, dipping, rolling rail and
rail, plunging wildly bows under, tossing its nose
WITH THE TANKS 237
up and squattering again stem-rail deep, pitching
and heaving and diving and staggering, but al-
ways pushing forward. Next minute it was a
monster out of Prehistoric Peeps, or a new pat-
ent fire-breathing dragon from the pages of a very
Grimm Fairy Tale, nosing its way blindly over
the Fairy Princess pitfalls; next it was a big
broad-buttocked sow nuzzling and rooting as it
went ; next it was a drunk man reeling and stag-
gering, rolling and falling, scrabbling and crawl-
ing; next it was — ^was anything on or in, or un-
derneath the earth, anything at all except a deadly,
grim, purposeful murdering product of modern
The infantry pushed out after it when it
reached the barbed wire, and although they took
little heed to keep cover — ^being much more con-
cerned not to miss any of the grave and comic
antics of their giant joke than to shelter from
flying bullets — the line went on almost without cas-
ualties. ** Mighty few bullets about this time,''
remarked Kentucky, who with Pug had moved out
along with the others *Ho see the fun." ** That's
'cos they're too busy with the old Pepper-pots,
an' the Pepper-pots is too busy wi' them to leave
much time for shootin ' at us, ' ' said Pug gayly. It
238 GRAPES OF WEATH
was true too. The Pepper-pots — ^a second one had
lumbered into sight from the center of the horse-
shoe curve — ^were drawing a tearing hurricane of
machine-gun bullets that beat and rattled on their
armored sides like hail on a window-paue. They
waddled indifferently through the storm and Here
We Are, crawling carefully across a trench, halted
half-way over and sprinkled bullets up and down
its length to port and starboard for a minute,
hitched itself over, steered straight for a fire-
streaming machine-gun embrasure. It squirted
a jet of lead into the loophole, walked on, butted
at the emplacement once or twice, got a grip of
it under the upward sloped caterpillar band,
climbed jerkily till it stood reared up on end like
a frightened colt, ground its driving bands round
and round, and — ^f eU forward on its face with a
cloud of dust belching up and out from the col-
lapsed dug-out. Then it crawled out of the
wreckage, crunching over splintered beams and
broken concrete, wheeled and cruised casually
down the length of a crooked trench, halting every
now and then to spray bullets on any German who
showed or to hail a stream of them down the black
entrance to a dug-out, straying aside to nose over
WITH THE TANKS 239
any suspicious cranny, swinging round again to
plod up the slope in search of more trenches.
The infantry followed up, cheering and laughing
like children at a fair, rounding up batches of
prisoners who crawled white-faced and with
scared eyes from dug-out doors and trench cor-
ners, shouting jests and comments at the lumber-
A yell went up as the Here We Are, ed^ng
along a trench, lurched suddenly, staggered, side-
slipped, and half disappeared in a fog of dust.
The infantry raced up and found it with its
starboard driving gear grinding and churning full
power and speed of revolution above ground and
the whole port side and gear down somewhere in
the depths of the collapsed trench, grating and
squealing and flinging out clods of earth as big as
clothes-baskets. Then the engines eased, slowed,
and stopped, and after a little and in answer to
the encouraging yells of the men outside, a scuttle
jerked open and a grimy figure crawled out.
*' Blimey,'^ said Pug rapturously, ** 'ere's Jo-
nah 'isself. OP Pepper-pot's spewed 'im out."
But ** Jonah'' addressed himself pointedly and
at some length to the laughing spectators, and
they, urged on by a stream of objurgation and in-
240 GRAPES OF WEATH
vective, fell to work with trenching-tools, with
spades retrieved from tiie trench, with bare hands
and busy fingers, to break down the trench-side
under Here We Are's starboard driver, and pile
it down into the trench and under the uplifted
end of her port one. The second Pepper-pot
cruised up and brought to adjacent to the opera-
tions with a watchful eye on the horizon. It was
well she did, for suddenly a crowd of Germans
seeing or sensing that one of the monsters was
out of action, swarmed out of cover on the crest
and came storming down on the party. Here We
Are could do nothing; but the sister ship could,
and did, do quite a lot to those Germans. It
sidled round so as to bring both bow guns and aU
its broadside to bear and let loose a dose-quarter
tornado of bullets that cut the attackers to rags.
The men who had ceased digging to grab their
rifles had not time to fire a shot before the affair
was over and *^ Jonah'' was again urging them to
their spade-work. Then when he thought the
way ready. Here We Are at his orders steamed
ahead again, its lower port side scraping and
jarring along the trench wall, the drivers biting
and gripping at the soft ground. Jerkily, a foot
at a time, it scuffled its way along the trench
WITH THE TANKS 241
till it came to a sharp angle of it where a big
shell hole had broken down the wall. Bnt just as
the starboard driver was reaching out over the
shell hole and the easy job of plunging into it,
gaining a level keel and climbing out the other
side, the trench wall on the right gave way and the
Here We Are sank its starboard side level to and
then below the port one. She had fallen bodily into
a German dug-out, but after a pause to regain its
shaken breath — or the crew's — ^it began once
more to revolve its drivers slowly, and to chum
out behind them, first a cloud of dust and clots of
earth, then, as the starboard driver bit deeper into
the dug-out, a mangled debris of clothing and
trench-made furniture. On the ground above the
infantry stood shrieking with laughter, while the
frantic skipper raved unheard-of oaths and the
Here We Are pawed out and hoofed behind, or
caught on its driving band and hoisted in turn
into the naked light of day, a splintered bedstead,
a diewed up blanket or two, separately and
severally the legs, back, and seat of a red velvet
arm-chair, a torn gray coat and a forlorn and
muddy pair of pink pajama trousers tangled up
in one officer's field boot. And when the drivers
got their grip again and the Here We Are rolled
242 GRAPES OF WEATH
majestically forward and up the further sloping
side of the shell crater and halted to take the
skipper aboard again. Pug dragged a long branch
from the fascines in the trench debris, slid it up
one leg and down the other of the pink pajamas,
tied the boot by its laces to the tip and jammed
the root into a convenient crevice in the Tank^s
stem. And so beflagged she rolled her triumphant
way up over the captured redoubt and down the
other side, with the boot-tip bobbing and swaying
and jerking at the end of her pink tail. The sequel
to her story may be told here, although it only
came back to the men who decorated her after
filtering round the firing line, up and down the
communication lines, round half the hospitals and
most of the messes at or behind the Front.
And many as came to be the Tales of the Tanks,
this of the Pink-Tailed 'un, as Pug called her,
belonged unmistakably to her and, being so, was
joyfully recognised and acclaimed by her decora-
tors. She came in due time across the redoubt,
says the story, and bore down on the British line
at the other extreme of the horseshoe to where
a certain infantry CO., famed in past days for
a somewhat speedy and hectic career, glared in
amazement at the apparition lurching and bobbing
WITH THE TANKS 243
and bowing and crawling toad-like towards him.
*^I knew/' lie is reported to have afterwards
admitted, **I knew it couldn't be that I'd got 'em
again. But in the old days I always had one in-
fallible sign. Crimson rats and purple snakes I
might get over ; but if they had pink tails, I knew
I was in for it certain. And I tell you it gave me
quite a turn to see this bHghter waddling up and
wagging the old pink tail.''
But this end of the story only came to the Stone-
walls long enough after — ^just as it is said to have
come in time to the ears of the Here We Are's
skipper, and, mightily pleasing him and his crew,
set him chuckling deUghtedly and swearing he
meant to apply and in due and formal course
obtsun permission to change his land-ship's name,
and having regretfully parted with the pink tail,
immortalize it in the name of H.M.L.S. The D.T/s.
THE BATTLE HTMlfr
Kbhttucky was suddenly awaxe of an overpower-
ing thirst. Fug being appealed to shook his anpty
water-bottle in reply. "Bnt 1*11 soon get some/*
he said cheerfully and proceeded to search
amongst the Oerman dead lying thick around
them. He came back with a full water-bottle and
a haversack containing sausage and dark brown
bread, and the two squatted in a shell hole and
made a good meal of the dead man's rations.
They felt a good deal the better of it^ and the ex-
pectation of an early move back out of the firing
line completed their satisfaction. The Stonewalls
would be relieved presently, they assured each
other ; had been told their bit was done when the
village was taken ; and that was done and the re-
doubt on top of it. They weren't sure how many
Stonewalls had followed on in the wake of the
tank, but they'd all be called back soon, and the
two agreed cordially that they wouldn't be a little
THE BATTLE HYMN 245
bit sorry to be out of this mud and murder game
for a spell.
An attempt was made after a little to sort out
the confusion of units that had resulted from the
advance, the Stonewalls being collected together
as far as possible, and odd bunches of Anzacs and
Highlanders and Fusiliers sent oflf in the direction
of their appointed rallying-plaoes. The work was
made more difficult by the recommencing of a slow
and methodical bombardment by the German guns
and the reluctance of the men to move from their
cover for no other purpose than to go and find
cover again in another part of the line. Scattered
amongst craters and broken trenches as the Stone-
walls were, even after they were more or less col-
lected together, it was hard to make any real esti-
mate of the casualties, and yet it was plain enough
to all that the battalion had lost heavily. As odd
men and groups dribbled in, Kentucky and Pug
questioned them eagerly for any news of Larry,
and at last heard a confused story from a
stretcher-bearer of a party of Stonewalls that
had been cut off, had held a portion of trench
gainst a German bombing attack, and had been
wiped out in process of the defense. Larry, their
informant was almost sure, was one of the casual-
246 GRAPES OF WRATH
ties, but he oonld not say whether killed, slightly
or seriously wounded.
**Wish I knowed 'e wasn't hurt too bad,'' said
Pug. ** Rotten luck if 'e is."
** Anyhow," said Kentucky, **we two have been
mighty lucky to come through it all so far, with
nothing more than your arm scratch between us. ' '
** Touch wood," said Pug wamingly. ** Don't
go boastin ' without touchin ' wood. ' '
Kentucky, who stood smoking with his hands
buried deep in his pockets, laughed at his earnest
tone. But his laugh died, and he and Pug glanced
up apprehensively as they heard the thin, distant
wail of an approaching shell change and deepen
to the roaring tempest of heart and soul-shaking
noise that means a dangerously close burst.
**Down, Pug," cried Kentucky sharply, and on
the same instant both flung themselves flat in the
bottom of their shelter. Both felt aad heard the
rending concussion, the shattering crash of the
burst, were sensible of the stunning shock, a sen-
sation of hurtling and falling, of . . . empty
blackness and nothingness.
Kentucky recovered himself first. He felt
numbed all over except in his left side and arm,
which pricked sharply and pulsed with pain at
THE BATTLE HYMN 247
a movement. He opened his eyes slowly with a
vague idea that he had been lying there for hours,
and it was with intense amazement that he saw
the black smoke of the burst stUl writhing and
thinning against the sky, heard voices calling and
asking was any one hurt, who was hit, did it catch
any one. He called an answer feebly at first, then
more strongly, and then as memory came back
with a rush, loud and sharp, **Pug! are you there,
Pugf Pug!'* One or two men came groping and
fumbling to him through the smoke, but he would
not let them lift or touch him until they had
searched for Pug. **He was just beside me,*' he
said eagerly. **He can't be hurt badly. Do hunt
for him, boys. It's poor old Pug. Oh, Pugl'^
**H'lo, Kentuck . . . you there?" came feebly
back. With a wrench Kentucky was on his knees,
staggered to his feet, and running to the voice.
* * Pug, ' ' he said, stooping over the huddled figure.
* * You're not hurt bad, are you, Pug, boy f ' ' With
clothing torn to rags, smeared and dripping with
blood, with one leg twisted horribly under him,
with a red cut gaping deep over one eye. Pug
looked up and grinned weakly. *'Orright," he
said;**I'm . . . or right. But I tole you, Kentuck
. . . I tole you to touch wood."
248 GRAPES OF WRATH
A couple of stretcher-bearers hurried along, and
when the damages were assessed it was found that
Pug was badly hurt, with one leg smashed, with
a score of minor wounds, of which one in the
side and one in the breast might be serious. Ken-
tucky had a broken hand, torn arm, lacerated
shoulder, and a heavily bruised set of ribs. So
Pug was lifted on to a stretcher, and Kentucky,
asserting stoutly that he could walk and that there
was no need to waste a precious stretcher on car-
rying him, had his wounds bandaged and started
out alongside the bearers who carried Pug. The
going was bad, and the unavoidable jolting and
jerking as the bearers stumbled over the rough
ground must have been sheer agony to the man
on the stretcher. But no groan or whimper came
from Pug's tight lips, that he opened only to en-
courage Kentucky to keep on, to tell him it
wouldn't be far now, to ask the bearers to go slow
to give Kentucky a chance to keep up. But it was
no time or place to go slow. The shells were stUl
screaming and bursting over and about the ground
they were crossing, gusts of rifle bullets or lonely
whimpering ones still whistled and hummed past.
A fold in the ground brought them cover pres-
ently from the bullets, but not from the shells, and
THE BATTLE HYMN 249
the bearers pushed doggedly on. Kentucky kept
up with difficulty, for he was feeling weak and
spent, and it was with a sigh of relief that he saw
the bearers halt and put the stretcher down.
^ ' How do you feel, Pug f he asked. * * Bit sore, ' '
said Pug with sturdy cheerfulness. **But it's
nothin* too bad. But I wish we was outer this.
We both got Blighty ones, Kentuck, an' we^l go
'ome together. Now we're on the way 'ome, I'd
hate to have another of them shells drop on us,
and put us out for good, mebbe. ' '
They pushed on again, for the light was failing,
and although the moon was already up, the half-
light made the broken ground more difficult than
ever to traverse. Pug had fallen silent, and one
of the bearers, noticing the gripped lips and pain-
twisted face, called to the other man and put the
stretcher down and fumbled out a pill. * * Swallow
that," he said, and put it between Pug's lips;
*^an' that's the last one I have." He daubed a
ghastly blue cross on Pug's cheek to show he had
been given an opiate, and then they went on
They crept slowly across the ground where the
Germans had made one of their counter-attacks,
and the price they had paid in it was plain to
250 GRAPES OF WRATH
be seen in the piled heaps of dead that lay
sprawled on the open and huddled anyhow in the
holes and ditches. There were hundreds upon
hundreds in that one patch of ground alone, and
Kentucky wondered vaguely how many such
patches there were throughout the battlefield. The
stretcher-bearers were busy with the wounded,
who in places still remained with the dead, and
sound German prisoners under ridiculously slen-
der guards were carrying in stretchers with
badly wounded Germans or helping less severely
wounded ones to walk back to the British rear. A
Uttle further on they crossed what had been a
portion of trench held by the Germans and from
which they appeared to have been driven by shell
and mortar fire. Here there were no wounded,
and of the many dead the most had been literally
blown to pieces, or, flung bodily from their shel-
ters, lay broken and buried under tumbled heaps
of earth. Half a dozen Germans in long, flap^
ping coats and heavy steel ^^coal-scuttle*' helmets
worked silently, searching the gruesome debris for
any living wounded ; and beyond them stood a soli-
tary British soldier on guard over them, leaning
on his bayoneted rifle and watching them. Far to
the rear the flashes of the British guns lit the
THE BATTLE HYMN 251
darkening sky with vivid, flickering gleams that
came and went incessantly, like the play of sum-
mer lightning. It brought to Kentucky, trudg-
ing beside the stretcher, the swift memory of lines
from a great poem that he had learned as a child
and long since forgotten — the Battle Hymn of his
own country. In his mind he quoted them now
with sudden realization of the exactness of their
fitting to the scene before him — ^ * Mine eyes have
seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, He is
trampling out the vintage where the grapes of
wrath are stored, He hath loosed the fateful light-
ning of His terrible swift sword; His truth is
marching on.*' Here surely in these broken dead,
in the silent, dejected prisoners, in the very earth
she had seized and that now had been wrested
from her, was Germany's vintage, the tramplings
out of the grapes of a wrath long stored, the smit-
ten of the fiwift sword that flashed unloosed at
last in the gun-fire lightning at play across the
For the rest of the way that he walked back
to the First Aid Post the words of the verse kept
running over in his pain-numbed and weary mind
— ^^. . . where the grapes of wrath are stored;
252 GRAPES OF WRATH
trampling out the vintage where the grapes of
wrath . . .'' over and over again.
And when at last they came to the trench that
led to the imdergronnd dressing-station just as
the guns had waked again to a fresh spasm of fury
that set the sky ablaze with their flashes and the
air roaring to their deep, rolling thunders, Ken-
tucky's mind went back to where the great shells
would be falling, pictured to him the flaming fires,
the rending, shattering crashes, the tearing whirl-
winds of destruction, that would be devastating
the German lines. ** Grapes of wrath,'* he whis-
pered. ** God, yes — ^bitter grapes of wrath.'' And
in his tasixsy the guns caught up the word from
his mouth, and tossed it shouting in long-drawn,
shaking thunder: ** Wrath — ^wrath — wrathP^
A DEEP and comparatively uninjured German dug-
out had been adapted for use as a dressing-sta-
tion. Its entrance lay in a little cup-shaped de-
pression with a steep, sloping bank behind it, and
the position of this bank and the entrance opening
out of it away from the British lines had probably
been the saving of it from shell fire. Kentucky
groped his way down the dark stairway, and the
bearers followed with Pug on the stretcher. The
stair was horribly steep, built in high and narrow
wooden steps which were coated with thick, slip-
pery mud, and it was with some diflSculty that the
stretcher was brought down. The stair opened
out direct into a large, well-built dug-out with
planked floor, walls and roof, and beyond it again
a narrow passage led to a further room, also well
built and plank lined, but much longer, and so
narrow that it barely gave room for men to be
laid across it. This chamber, too, was filled with
254 GRAPES OF WBATH
wounded, some of them stretched at full length,
others squatting close packed about the floor. The
first room was used by the doctors, beeause, being
more widely built, it gave room for a couple of
tables. There were three doctors there, two work-
ing at the tables, the third amongst the cases
huddled along the wall. Kentucky took his place,
leaning back against the wall and waiting his turn,
but Pug was carried almost at once to one of the
**Have you heard anything about how the whole
show is going f Kentucky asked one of the or-
derlies. "Not a word,*' said the man. ** Least-
ways, weVe heard so many words you can't be-
lieve any of 'em. Some o' the casualties tells us
one thing an' some another. But we've bumped
the Hun back a lump, that's sure. They all tell
Kentucky stayed there some minutes longer,
waiting his turn and watching the doctors at their
work. They were kept hard at it. The casualties
came stumbling down the stair in an unbroken
procession, and in turn passed along to the doc-
tors at the tables. Most of those that walked had
bandages about their heads, faces, hands, or
arms ; most of them were smeared and spattered
with blood, all of them were plastered thick with
mud. Many had sleeves slit open or shirts cut
away, and jackets slung loosely over their shoul-
ders, and as they moved glimpses of white flesh
and patches of bandage showed vividly fresh and
dean behind the torn covering of blood-stained
and muddy khaki. As fast as the doctor finished
one man another took his place, and without an
instant's pause the doctor washed from his mind
the effort of thought concentrated on the last case,
pounced on the newcomer, and, hurriedly strip-
ping off the bandages, plunged into the problem of
the fresh case, examining, diagnosing, and label-
ing it, cleansing the wound of the clotted blood and
mud that dung about it, redressing and bandag-
ing it. Then each man's breast was bared and a
hypodermic injection of ** anti-tetanus " serum
made, and the man passed along to join the others
waiting to go back to the ambulances. And be-
fore he was well clear of the table the doctor had
turned and was busied about the next case. The
work went on at top speed, as smooth as sweet-
running madiinery, as fast and eflSdently as the
sorting and packing of goods in a warehouse by
a well-drilled and expert staff. It was curiously
like the handling of merchandise, if you gave your
256 GRAPES OF WEATH
main attention to the figures passing down the
stairs, moving into line np to the tables, halting
there a few minutes, moving on again and away.
The men might have been parcels shifting one by
one up to the packers ' tables and away from them,
or those pieces of metal in a factory which tridde
up leisurely to a whirling lathe, are seized by it,
turned, poked, spun about with feverish haste for
a minute by the machine, pushed out dear to re-
sume their leisured progress while the machine
jumps on the next piece and works its ordered
will upon it That was the impression if one
watched the men filing up to and away from the
doctor's hands. It was quite different if attention
were concentrated on the doctor alone and the
case he handled. That brought instant realiza-
tion of the human side, the high skill of the swiftly
moving fingers, the perfection of knowledge that
directed them, the second-cutting haste with which
a bandage was stripped off, the tenderness that
over-rode the haste as the raw wound and quiver-
ing flesh were bared, the sure, imhesitating touch
that handled the wound with a maximum of speed
finely adjusted to a minimum of hurt, the knowl-
edge that saw in one swift glance what was to be
done, the technical skill, instant, exact, and un-
deviating, that did it. Here, too, was another hu-
man side in the men who moved forward one by
one into the strong lamp-light to be handled and
dealt with, to hear maybe and pretend not to heed
the verdict that meant a remaining life to be spent
in crippled incompetence, in bed-ridden helpless-
ness ; or a sentence that left nothing of hope, that
reduced to bare hours in the semi-dark of under-
ground, of cold and damp, of lonely thoughts, the
life of a man who a few hours before had been
crammed with health and strength and vitality,
overflowing with animal fitness and energy. With
all these men it appeared to be a i>oint of honor
to show nothing of flinching from pain or from
fear of the future. All at least bore the pain
grimly and stoically, most bore it cheerfully,
looked a detached sort of interest at their un-
covered wounds, si>oke with the doctor lightly or
even jestingly. If it was a slight wound there
was usually a great anxiety to know if it would
be ' * a Blighty one ' * ; if it were serious, the anx-
iety was still there, but studiously hidden under
an assumed carelessness, and the questioning
would be as to whether *4t would have to come
off'* or ^4s there a chance for me?'*
When Kentucky's turn came he moved forward
258 GRAPES OF WEATH
and sat himself on a low box beside the table, and
before he was well seated the orderly was slip-
ping off the jacket thrown over his shoulders and
buttoned across his chest. The doctor was in
his shirt-sleeves, and a dew of perspiration beaded
his forehead and shone damp on his face and
throat. ** Shell, sir,*' said Kentucky in answer to
the quick question as the doctor began rapidly to
unwind the bandages on his shoulder. * * Dropped
in a shell hole next the one I was lying in with
another man. That's him,'' and he nodded to
where Pug lay on the other doctor's table. **He's
hurt much worse than me. He's a particular
chum of mine, sir, and — ^would you mind, sir f — ^if
you could ask the other doctor he might tell me
what Pug's chances are."
**We'll see," said the doctor. **But I'm afraid
you've got a nasty hand here yourself," as he
carefully unwound the last of the bandage from
Kentucky's fingers and gently pulled away the
blood-clotted pad from them. ' * Yes, sir, ' ' agreed
Kentucky. **But, you see, Pug got it in the leg,
and the bearers say that's smashed to flinders,
and he's plugged full of other holes as well. I'm
rather anxious about him, sir; and if you could
ctSK* • • •
* * Presently, * ^ said the doctor, and went on with
his work. **What was your job before the war!
Will it cripple you seriously to lose that hand; be-
cause I'm afraid they'll have to amputate when
you go down.*'
Kentucky was anxiously watching the men at
the other table and trying to catch a glimpse of
what they were doing. **It doesn't matter so
much about that, sir," he said: **and I'm a lot
more worried about Pug. He'll lose a leg if
he loses anything, and mebbe he mightn't pull
through. Couldn't you just have a look at him
As it happened, his doctor was called over a
* minute later to a hurried consultation at the other
table. The two doctors conferred hastily, and
then Kentucky's doctor came bad: to finish his
**Bad," he said at once in answer to Kentucky's
look. **Very bad. Doubtful if it is worth giving
him a place in the ambulance. But he has a faint
chance. We'll send him down later — ^when there 's
room — ^if he lasts. . . . There you are . . . now
the anti-tetania ..." busying himself with the
needle *^ . . and off you go to Blighty."
260 GRAPES OF WBATH
"Thank you, sir,'' said Kentucky. **And can
I stay beside Pug till it's time to move?"
**Yes," said the doctor. **But I'm afraid we'll
have to let you walk if you can manage it. There ^s
desi)erately little room in the ambulances."
^^I can walk aU rights sir,",said Kentucky; and
presently, with a label tied to the breast of his
jacket, moved aside to wait for Pug's removal
from the table. They brought him over presently
and carried him into the other room and laid him
down there dose to the foot of another stair lead-
ing to above-ground. Kentucky squatted beside
him and leaned over the stretcher. **Are yon
awake. Pug?" he said softly, and immediately
Pug's eyes opened. ** Hullo, Kentuck," he said
cheerfully. **Yes, I'm awake orright. They
wanted to gimme another dose o' that sleep stuff
in there, but I tole 'em I wasn't feelin' these holes
hurt a bit. I wanted to 'ave a talk to you, y'see,
ol' man, an' didn't know if another pill 'ud let
**Sure they don't hurt muchf " said Kentucky.
**No," said Pug; **but it looks like a wash-out
for me, Kentuck."
** Never believe it, boy," said Kentucky, forc-
ing a gayety that was the last thing he actually
felt. *'We^re going down and over to Blighty to-
getiier. ' *
Pug grinned up at Mm. * * No kid stakes, Ken-
tuck," he said; ^*or mebbe you don't know. But
I 'eard wot them M.O.s was sayin', though they
didn't know I did.* They said it wasn't worth
sendin' me out to the ambulance. You knows
wot that means as well as me, Kentuck.''
Kentucky was silent. He knew only too well
what it meant. Where every stretcher and every
place in the ambulances is the precious means of
conveyance back to the doctors, and hospitals, and
the hope of their saving of the many men who
have a chance of that saving, no stretcher and no
place dare be wasted to carry back a dying man,
merely that he may die in another place. The
ones that may be saved take precedence, and those
that are considered hopeless must wait imtil a
slackening of the rush allows them to be sent. In
one way it may seem cruel, but in tiie other and
larger way it is the more humane and merciful.
** There's always, a chance. Pug," said Ken-
tucky, striving to capture hope luijQself . * ' Course
there is," said Pug. ''An' you can bet I'm goin*
to fight it out an' cheat them doctors if it can be
done, Kentuck. You'll go down ahead o' me, but
262 GRAPES OF WBATH
there ain't so many casualties comin* in now, an*
the battalion bein' on the way out will leave less
to be casualtied an* more room on the ambulance.
Yon keep a lookout for me, Kentuck. I might be
down at the boat as soon as you yet/*
' ^ That *s the talk, boy, * * said Kentucky. A man
hobbling on a stick oame in from tiie doctors*
room, and, seeing Kentucky, picked his way over
the outstretched forms to him. ^ ^ Hello, Kentuck, * *
he said. *^You got your packet passed out to
you, then. An* you, too, Pug?** as he caught
sight of Pug*s face half -hidden in bandages.
**Cheer-oh, Jimmy,** said Pug. *^ Yes, gave me
my little sooven-eer all right. An* the worst of it
is I*m afraid they've made a mess o* my fatal
** Never min*, Pug,** said Jimmy, ehuckling and
seating himself beside the stretcher. ^'I see
they've lef* your *andsome boko in action an*
'*Wot*s yours?** said Pug with interest. *'0h,
nothin* much,** said the other. *^Bit of shrap
through the foot. Just good enough for Blighty,
an* nothin* else to fuss about. How far did you
Pug tried to tell his story, but in spite of him-
self his voice weakened and slurred, and Ken-
tucky, catching Jimmy's eye, placed his finger on
his lips and nodded significantly towards Pug.
Jimmy took the hint promptly. ** Hullo, some
more o' tiie old crush over there/' he said. **I
must go'n 'ave a chin-wag with 'em,'' and he
**D'you think you could find me a drink, Ken-
tuck!" said Pug; and Kentucky went and got
some from an orderly and brought it and held it
to the hot lips. After that he made Pug lie quiet,
telling him he was sure it was bad for him to be
talking; and because the drug still had a certain
amount of hold perhai>s, Pug half -drowsed and
woke and drowsed again. And each time he woke
Kentucky spoke quietly and cheerfully to him^
and lied calmly, saying it wasn't time for him to
go yet — although many others had gone and Ken-
tucky had deliberately missed his turn to go for
the sake of remaining beside the broken lad. Most
of the walking cases went on at once or in com-
pany with stretcher parties, but Kentucky let them
go and waited on, hour after hour. His own arm
and hand were throbbing painfully, and he was
feeling cold and sick and deadly tired. He was
not sleepy, and this apparently was unusual, for
264 GRAPES OF WRATH
most of the men there, if their pain was not too
great, lay or sat and slept the moment they had
the chance. Although many went, the room was
always fnll, because others came as fast. The
place was lit by a couple of hanging lamps, and
blue wreaths of cigarette smoke curled and floated
up past their chimneys and drifted up the stair-
way. Kentucky sat almost opposite the stair, and
the lamplight shone on the steps and on the figures
that disappeared up it one by one, their legs and
feet tramping up after their heads and bodies had
passed out of vision. The ground above had evi-
dently been churned into thin mud, and the water
from this ran down the* stair, and a solid mass
of the thicker mud followed gradually and over-
flowed step by step under the trampling feet. For
an hour Kentucky watched it coming lower and
lower, and thought disgustedly of the moment
when it would reach the floor and be tramped and
spread out over it, thick and slimy and filthy.
His back began to ache, and the tiredness to grip
and numb him, and his thoughts turned with in-
tolerable longing to the moment when he would
get off his mud-encrusted clothes and lie in a clean
hospital bed. Every now and then some order-
lies and bearers clumped down the stair into the
dug-out, and after a little stir of preparation a
batch of the wounded would walk or be helped or
carried up out into the open to start their journey
back to the ambulances. But the cleared space
they left quickly filled again with the steady inflow
of men who came from the doctors' hands in the
other room, and these in their turn settled them-,
selves to wait their turn squatting along the walls
or lying patiently on their stretchers. They were
all plastered and daubed with wet mud and clay,
worn and drooping with pain and fatigue; but
all who had a spark of consciousness or energy
left were most amazingly cheerful and contented.
They smoked cigarettes and exchanged experi-
ences and opinions, and all were most anxious to
find out something of how 'Hhe show'' had gone.
It was extraordinary how little they each ap-
peared to know of the fight they had taken such
an active part in, how ignorant they were of how
well or ill the action had gone as a whole. Some
talked very positively, but were promptly ques-
tioned or contradicted by others just as positive ;
others confessed blank ignorance of everything ex-
cept that they themselves had stayed in some ditch
for a certain number of hours, or that the bat-
talion had been *^held up" by machine-gun fire;
266 GRAPES OF WRATH
or that the sheUing had been ^^heU.'^ *'But if I'd
'a' had to ha' choosed/' said one, ^*I'd ha' sooner
been under their shell-fire than ours. The Bosche
trenches in front o ' us was just blowed out by the
** Never seed no Bosohe trenches myself," said
another. **I dodged along outer one shell-hole
inter another for a bit an' couldn't see a thing
for smoke. An' then I copped it and crawled
back in an ' out more shell-holes. Only dash thing
I've seed o' this battle has been shell-holes an'
smoke. ' '
'^Anyways," put in a man with a bandaged
jaw, mumblingly, *4f we didn't see much we heard
plenty. I didn't think a man's bloomin' ears
would 'ave 'eld so much row at onct."
*^We got heaps an' heaps o' prisoners," said a
man from his stretcher. *^I saw that much. We
muster took a good bit o' ground to get what I
saw myself o ' them. ' '
'^Hadn't took much where I was," remarked
another. **I didn't stir out of the trench we oc-
cupied till a crump blew me out in a heap."
^^Did any o' you see them Tanks? Lumme,
wasn't they a fair treat? ..."
Talk of the Tanks spread over all the dug-out.
It was plain that they were the feature of the bat-
tle. Every man who had seen them had wonder
tales to tell; every man who had not seen was
thirsting for information from the othei*s. The
Tanks were one huge joke. Their actual services
were overshadowed by their humor. Thjey drew
endless comparisons and similes; the dug-out
rippled with laughter and chuddings over their ap-
pearance, their uncouth antics and — ^primest jest
of all — ^the numbers their guns had cut down, the
attempts of the Germans to bolt from them, the
speed and certainty with which a gust of their
machine-gun fire had caught a hustling mob of
fugitives, hailed through them, tumbled them in
kicking, slaughtered heaps.
In the midst of the talk a sudden heavy crash
sounded outside and set the dug-out quivering.
A couple more followed, and a few men came down
the stairs and stood crowded together on its lower
steps and about its foot
**Pitchin' 'em pretty dose,** one of these in-
formed the dug-out. ** Too dose for comfort. An'
there's about a dozen diaps lyin' on top there
waitin' for stretchers."
Immediately there followed another tremendous
crash that set the dug-out rocking like a baat
268 GRAPES OF WRATH
struck by a heavy wave. Prom above came a con-
fused shoutingy and the men on the stair surged
back and down a step, while earth fragments rat-
tled and pattered down after them.
In the dug-out some of the men cursed and
others laughed and thanked their stars — ^and the
Bosche diggers of the dug-out — ^that they were so
deep under cover. The next shells fell further
away, but since the Germans of course knew the
exact location of the dug-out, there was every
prospect of more dose shooting.
Efforts were concentrated on clearing the
wounded who lay at the top of the stair in the
open and as many of the occupants of the dug-out
But Kentucky managed to resist or evade being
turned out and held his place in the shadows at
Pug's heady sat there still and quiet and watched
the others come one by one and pass out in
batches. And each time Pug stirred and spoke,
**You there, Kentuckf Ain't it time you was
gone?" told him, "Not yet, boy. Presently.'* And
he noticed with a pang that each time Pug spoke
his voice was fainter and weaker. He spoke to an
orderly at last, and the doctor came and made
a quick examination* With his finger still ob
Pug's wrist he looked up at Kentucky and slightly
shook his head and spoke in a low tone. ^ ^ Noth-
ing to be done^'' he said, and rose and passed to
where he coxdd do something.
' * Kentuck, ' ' said Pug very weakly ; * * collar hold
o' that Germ 'elmet o' mine. I got no one at
'ome to send it to . . . an' I'd like you to 'av it,
chummy . . . f or a sooven-eer . . . o'anol'pal."
Kentucky with an effort steadied his voice and
stooped and whispered for a minute. He could
just catch a faint answer, ^^I'morright, chum. I
ain't afeard none ..." and then after a long
pause, ^ ^ Don 't you worry 'bout me. / 'm orright. ' '
And that was his last/word.
Kentucky passed up the stair and out into the
cold air heavily and almost reluctantly. Even
although he could do nothing more, he hated leav-
ing Pug; but room was precious in the dug-out,
and the orderlies urged him to be off. He joined
a party of several other ** walking cases" and a
couple of men on stretchers, and with them struck
off across the battlefield towards the point on the
road which was the nearest the ambulance could
approach to the dressing station. The Germans
had begun to shell again, and several *^ crumps"
fell near the dug-out. Kentucky, with his mind
270 GRAPES OF WEATH
busied in thoughts of Pug, hardly heeded, but the
others of the party expressed an anxiety and
showed a nervousness greater than Kentudiy had
ever noticed before. The explanation was simple,
and was voiced by one cheerful csasualty on a
stretcher. **IVe got my dose, an' I'm bound for
Blighty," he said, ^'an' gels chuckin' flowers in
the ambulance in Lunnon. If you bloomin' bear-
ers goes cartin' me into the way o' stoppin' an-
other one — strewth, I'll come back an' 'aunt yer.
I've 'ad the physic, an' I don't want to go missin'
none o' the jam."
They moved slowly across the torn fields aad
down along the slope towards the road. In the
valley they walked in thin, filmy mists, and further
on, where low hUls rose out of the hollow, camp
fires twinkled and winked in scores on the hill-
sides. And still further, when they rounded a
low shoulder and the valley and the hills beyond
opened wide to them, the fires increased from
scores to hundreds. *'Bloomin' Crystal Palis on
firework night," said one man, and '*Why don't
the special conetables make 'em draw the blinds
an' shade the lights?" said another.
Kentucky saw these things, heard the men's
talk, without noting them ; and yet the impression
must have been deeper and sharper than he knew,
for there oame a day when he recalled every spot
of light aad blot of shadow, every curve of hill
and mist-shrouded valley, every word and smoth-
ered groan and rough jest and laugh, as clearly
as if they had been in his eyes and ears a minute
before. In thej same detajbhed way he saw the
bodies of men lying stiff in grotesque, twisted
postures or in the peaceful attitudes of quiet
sleep, the crawling mists and the lanterns of or-
derlies and stretcher-bearers searching the field
for any still living, heard the weak quavering calls
that came out of the mists at intervals like the
lonely cries of sheep lost on a mountain crag, the
thin, long-drawn *^He-e-e-lp'' of men too sore
stricken to move, calling to guide the rescuers
they knew would be seeking them. And in the
same fashion, after they came to the ambulances
waiting on the broken roadside and he had been
helped to the seat beside the driver of one, he
noticed how slowly and carefully the man drove
and twisted in and out dodging the shell holes;
noticed, witiiout then realizing their significance,
the legions of men who tramped silently and
stolidly, or whistling and singing and blowing
on mouth-organs, on their way up to the firing
272 GRAPES OP WRATH
line, the faces emerging white and the rifles glint-
ing out of the darkness into the brightness of the
headlights. The car made a wide detour by a
road which ran over a portion of gronnd cap-
tured from the Germans a few weeks before. A
cold gray light was creeping in before they cleared
this ground that already was a swarming hive of
British troops, and further than the faint light
showed, Kentucky coxdd see and sense parked
ranks of wagons, lines of horses, packed camps
of men and rows of bivouacs. From there and
for miles back the car crept slowly past gun po-
sitions and batteries beyond count or reckoning,
jolted across the metals of a railway line that was
already running into the captured ground, past
**dump'' after **dump'' of ammunition, big shells
and little piled in stacks and house-high pyramids,
patches of ground floored acre-wide with trench
mortar bombs like big footballs, familiar gray
boxes of grenades and rifle cartridges, shells
again, and yet more shellb. ** Don't look like we
expected to ever lose any o' this ground again,''
said the driver cheerfully, and Kentucky realized
— ^ihen and afterwards — ^just how little it looked
like it, and quoted softly to himself, from the Bat-
tle Hymn again — * * He has sounded forth the tram-
pet that shall never call retreat/' As the light
grew and the car passed back to where the road
was less damaged or better repaired their speed
increased and they ran spattering in the roadside
to meet more long columns of men with the brown
rifle barrels sloped and swaying evenly above the
yellow ranks — ' ' . . . a fiery gospel writ in rows of
burnished steel/' murmured Kentucky. **Wot
sayf questioned the driver. ** Nothing/' said
Kentucky. ** That's the dearin' station ahead
there," said the driver. **Tou'll soon be tucked
up safe in a bed now, or pushin' on to the ambu-
lance train and a straight run 'ome to Blighty."
So Kentucky came out of the battle, and step-
ping down from the ambulance, with an alert or-
derly attentive at his elbow to help him, took the
first step into the swift stages of the journey
home, and the long vista of kindness, gentleness,
and thoughtful care for which the hospital service
is only another name. From here he had nothing
to do but sleep, eat, and get well. He was done
with battle, and quit of the firing line. But as
he came away the war had one more word for his
ear, and as he was carried on board the hospital
train, the distant guns growled and muttered
274 GRAPES OF WRATH
fheir la£t same message to him — ^^^ grapes of
wrath, of wrath, of wrath/'
And after he had lost the last dull rumble of
the guns he still bore the memory of their message
with him, carried it down to the edge of France,
and across the Narrow Seas, and into the sheltered
calm of England.
He had been strangely impressed by the fitting
of his half-forgotten verses to all he had come
through, and their chance but dear coincidence
worked oddly on him, and came in the end to be
a vital influence in picking the path of his im-
mediate future and leading it utterly away from
PLAY OUT THE GAME
Kentucky thouglit often over the Battle Hymn
in the long waMng hours of pain and the listless
time of convalescence, and since his thoughts came
in time to crystallize into words and words are
easier to set down than thoughts, here is a talk
that he had, many weeks after, when he was al-
most well again — ot rather as well as he would
The talk was with Larry, with the broken wreck
of a Larry who would never, as the doctors told
him, walk or stand upright again. Kentucky had
finished his convalescing at Larry ^s home, and the
talk came one night when they were alone together
in the big dining-room, Larry, thin-faced and daw-
handed, on a couch before the fire, Kentucky in
a deep armchair. They had chatted idly and in
broken snatches of old days, and of those last
desperate days in *Hhe Push,** and on a chance
mention of Pug both had fallen silent for a space.
276 GRAPES OF WEATH
**Poor Pug/' said Larry at last. **Did it ever
strike you, Kentucky what a queer quartette of
chums we were, Billy Simson and Pug and you
* * Yes, mighty queer, come to think of it, ' ' agreed
Kentucky. **And the game handed it out pretty
rough for the lot of us — ^Billy and Pug killed,
you like this, and me ... " and he had lifted the
stump of a hand bound about with black silk band-
ages and showing nothing but a thumb and the
stump of a finger. **And I figure that out of the
lot yours is maybe the worst. ' '
**I don't know,'* said Larry slowly. **I'm well
enough off, after all, with a good home and my
people asking nothing better than to have the
looking after of me. I always think Billy had the
hardest luck to be hit again just as he was coming
out of it all with a safe and cushy one. ' '
** Anyway,*' said Kentucky, *4t's a sure thing
I came out best. I 'm crippled, of course, but I 'm
not right out of action, and can still play a little
hand in the game. ' '
** That's right,'' said Larry heartily. **You're
fit enough to tackle the job in his office in my place
that the Pater 's so keen to have you take — ^and as
I am, selfishly, because the offer carries the con-
PLAY OUT THE GAME 277
dition that you live with us. I hope youVe de-
cided to sign on with the firmf
**I'm going to tell your father to-night, '* said
Kentucky very slowly. **But I'm glad to have
the chance to tell you first. I asked him to give
me a day to think it over because I wanted to
know first if I'd a good-enough reason for re-
**Bef using,''. Larry said, and almost cried the
**When I went out this morning," said Ken-
tucky quietly, **I went to the Bed Cross people
and had a talk with Kendrick. I showed him I
was fit endugh for the job and he asked me if I'd
take an ambulance car to drive up front."
Larry stared at him. **Up front again," he
gasped. * * Haven 't you had enough of the front f ' '
*'More than enough," said Kentucky gravely.
**I'm not going because I like it, any more than I
did in the first place. It's just because I ^bink I
ought to play out the game."
**God," said Larry. **As if you hadn't done
enough. You've got your discharge as unfit. Who
would ever blame you for not going back, or dream
you ought to go!"
**Only one man," said Kentucky with the glim-
278 aBAPES OF WEATH
mer of a smile, ^^but one that oounts a smart lot
with me ; and he 's — ^myself. ' '
**But it^s nonsense, *' said Larry desperately,
**Why, it's not even as if you were one of us.
After all, you're American, and this country has
no claim, never had a daim, on you. You Ve done
more than your share already. There isn't an
earthly reason why you should go again."
**Not even one of us," repeated Kentucky
softly. **Well, now, haven't I earned the right
to call myself one of you ! No, never mind ; course
I know you didn't mean it that way. But you're
wrong otherwise, boy. I 'm not an American now.
If you folks went to war with America to-morrow,
and I was fit to fight, I'd have to fight on your
side. There was an oath I took to serve your
King, when I enlisted, you'U remember."
* * No one would expect an oath like that to bind
you to fight against your own people, ' ' said Larry
**In Kentucky, boy," said Kentucky gently, his
speech running, as it always did when he was
stirred into the slurred, soft * * r ' '-less drawl of his
own South, * * an oath is an oath, and a promise is
little sho't of it. I fought foh yoh country be-
cause I thought yoh country was right. But I
PLAY OUT THE GAME 279
oome at last to fight foh her, because IVe got to
be proud of her and of belonging to her. And I
want to pay the best bit of respect I can think of
to those men I fought along with. It just pleases
me some to think poor old Pug and Billy and a
right smart mo' we knew would like it — ^I'm going
to take out naturalization papers just as soon as I
can do if
**Like it," said Larry, with his eyes glistening;
**why, yes, I think they'd like it/'
Kentucky hesitated a little, then went on slowly :
**And theh's some verses I know that have so't
of come to map out a route fo' me to follow.
Oveh theh those verses stood right up an' spoke
to me. I've thought it oveh quite a lot since, an'
it's sure plain to me that I was made to see how
dose they fitted to what I could see, an' heah, an'
undehstand, just so I could use the otheh verses
to show me otheh things I could not undehstand.
I'd like to tell yo' some of those verses an' how
they come in."
He toldn&rst the picture he had seen of the
German prisoners searching amongst their own
heaped dead, while the British guard stood watch-
ing them, and the sky flickered with **the fateful
lightning" and the guns growled their triumph
280 GRAPES OF WRATH
song; and then went on and repeated the verse of
the Battle Hymn, **Mine eyes have seen *'
"Yon see jnst how exact it fitted, '* he said.
**But it wasn't only in that. Theh were otheh
lines'*; and he went on to tell of the journey bac^
from the advanced dressing station, the camp fires
dotting the hills, the mists crawling in the valley,
the lanterns moving to and fro where the bearers
still searched for the wonnded. "Jnst see how it
came in again,'' he said, and repeated another
I have leen Him in the watch-fires of a hundred circling eampa^
Th^ have builded Him an altar in the evening dews and damps,
I have read His righteous sentence in the dim and flaring lamps,
His truth is marching on.
"That wasn't all," he went on. **The words
fitted 'most everywheh they tonched. All along
I've neveh qmte managed to get so soaked in con-
fidence that we mnst win as every man I've met
in the British Army has been. I've had some
donbts at times ; but that night I lost them all. It
wasn't only seeing the men pouring up into the
firing line, an' the sureness of not being driven
back that I could figure was in the minds of the
higher Commands when they set to building roads
an' rails right up into the captured ground; it
PLAT OUT THE GAME 281
wasn't only the endless stacks of shells and stuflE
piled right there on the back doorstep of the battle,
and the swarms of guns we came back throngh.
It was something that just spoke plain and dear
in my ear, * He has sounded forth the trumpet that
shall never call retreat,' an' IVe had no shadow
of doubt since but that Germany will go undeh,
that theh is nothing left for her but defeat, that
she is to be made to pay to the last bitter squeez-
ing of the grapes of wrath for the blood and
misery she plunged Europe into. Theh will be no
mercy fo' heh. That was told me plain too — ^*I
have read the fiery gospel writ in rows of bur-
nished steel, * * As ye deal with My contemners so
with you My soul shall deal." ' . . . Bernhardi
an' all his lot writ a fiery enough gosi>el, but it's
cold print beside that other one, that strips the
last hope of mercy from His contemners with
their gospel of blood and iron and terror and
f rightfulness." He paused and was silent a little,
and then glanced half-shamef acedly from the flick-
ering fire-shadows at Larry.
**Any one else might think I was talkin' like
a rantin ', crazy, fanatic preacher, ' ' he said. * * But
you an' I, boy, an' most that's been oveh theh, will
undehstand, because we 've learned a lot mo ' than
282 GRAPES OF WRATH
we can eveh tell or speak out loud. ... So IVe
come to believe that all these things fetched home
a plain message to me, an' I'd do right to follow
the rest of the verses as best I could. *As He
died to make men holy, let us die to make men
free,' is straight enough, an' I've got to go oiw
offering my life as long as He sees fit to let me, or
until He sees fit to take it. ' '
He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreaty
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat^
O be swift, mj soul, to answer Him, be jubilant my feet,
Our God is marching on I
He was speaking now slowly and low and
musingly, almost as if he spoke to himself. * * My
heart has had some sifting too. It was so easy
to take this off eh of yo' father's, and live pleasant
an' smooth; an' it was nasty to think about that
otheh life, an ' the muck and misery of it all. But
altho ' I could be no ways swift or jubilant about
it, I came to allow I'd just go again, an' do what
In the silence that followed they heard the quick
slam of an outer door, and a minute later their
room door swung open and some one entered
briskly, stopped in the half-dark and cried out in
PLAY OUT THE GAME 283
a girPs laughing voice, **Why — ^whatever are you
two boys doing in the dark!'*
Kentucky had jumped to his feet and was mov-
ing round the couch, but Larry's sister st)oke im-
periously. ^^WUl you sit down, Kentuck? How
jpften have I to tell you that you haven't quite es-
caped being an invalid yetf "
** Why, now, I thought I'd been discharged fit,'*
said Kentucky, and Larry called, **Come here,
Eose, and see if you can persuade this crazy fel-
Eose came forward into the firelight and made
Kentucky sit again, and dropped to a seat on the
floor in front of Larry's couch. Kentucky sat
back in the shadow looking at her and thinking
what a picture she made with her pretty English
face framed in a dark close-fitting hat and a heavy
fur round her throat with the outside damp cling-
ing and sparkling on it.
** Persuade him," she said, **what to! Wouldn't
it be easier for me just to order himf "
* ' He talks about going back, ' ' said Larry. * * Out
there — ^to the front again. ' '
The girl sat up wide-eyed. **The front," she
repeated. **But how — ^I don't understand — ^your
hand. . • ."
284 GRAPES OF WRATH
**Not in the firing line,'* said Kentucky quickly,
"I^m not fit for that. But I am fit for Red Cross
work, ' '
** It's as bad/' said Larry, **if you're working
close up, as I know you'd be if you had a chance. ' '
The girl was staring into the flickering fire with
set lips. She looked round suddenly and leaned
forward and slipped a hand on to Kentucky's
knee. **0h, Ken . . . don't, don't go. Stay here
Kentucky's thought flashed out to * * over there, ' '
where he would move in mud and filth, would be
cold and wet and hungry. He saw himself crawl-
ing a car along the shell-holed muddy track, his
hands stiff with cold, the rain beating and driving
in his face, the groans of his load of wounded be-
hind him, the stench of decay and battle in his nos-
trils, the fear of God and the whistling bullets
and roaring shells cold in his heart. And against
that was this snug, cozy room and all the life that
it stood for . . . and the warm touch of the girl 's
hand on his knee. He wavered a moment while a
line hammered swiftly through his mind, **. . .
sifting out the hearts of men. ..."
Then he spoke quietly, almost casually; but
PLAY OUT THE GAME 285
knowing him as they did, both knew that his words
were completely finaL
**Why, now,'' he said slowly, **Kendrick, my
friend Kendrick of the Bed Cross, asked me ; and
I passed my word, I gave my promise that I'd go/'
Oct 2 9 1917